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Satellite photograph of industrial deforestation in the Tierras Bajas project in eastern Bolivia, using skyline logging and replacement of forests by agriculture
Much attention has been given to preserving the natural characteristics of Hopetoun Falls, Australia, while allowing access for visitors

Nature conservation is the moral philosophy and conservation movement focused on protecting species from extinction, maintaining and restoring habitats, enhancing ecosystem services, and protecting biological diversity. A range of values underlie conservation, which can be guided by biocentrism, anthropocentrism, ecocentrism, and sentientism,[1] environmental ideologies that inform ecocultural practices and identities.[2] There has recently been a movement towards evidence-based conservation which calls for greater use of scientific evidence to improve the effectiveness of conservation efforts. As of 2018 15% of land and 7.3% of the oceans were protected. Many environmentalists set a target of protecting 30% of land and marine territory by 2030.[3][4] In 2021, 16.64% of land and 7.9% of the oceans were protected.[5][6] The 2022 IPCC report on climate impacts and adaptation, underlines the need to conserve 30% to 50% of the Earth's land, freshwater and ocean areas – echoing the 30% goal of the U.N.'s Convention on Biodiversity.[7][8]


Conservation goals include conserving habitat, preventing deforestation, maintaining soil organic matter, halting species extinction, reducing overfishing, and mitigating climate change. Different philosophical outlooks guide conservationists towards these different goals.

The principal value underlying many expressions of the conservation ethic is that the natural world has intrinsic and intangible worth along with utilitarian value – a view carried forward by parts of the scientific conservation movement and some of the older Romantic schools of the ecology movement. Philosophers have attached intrinsic value to different aspects of nature, whether this is individual organisms (biocentrism) or ecological wholes such as species or ecosystems (ecoholism).[9]

More utilitarian schools of conservation have an anthropocentric outlook and seek a proper valuation of local and global impacts of human activity upon nature in their effect upon human wellbeing, now and to posterity. How such values are assessed and exchanged among people determines the social, political and personal restraints and imperatives by which conservation is practiced. This is a view common in the modern environmental movement. There is increasing interest in extending the responsibility for human wellbeing to include the welfare of sentient animals. In 2022 the United Kingdom introduced the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act which lists all vertebrates, decapod crustaceans and cephalopods as sentient beings.[10] Branches of conservation ethics focusing on sentient individuals include ecofeminism[11] and compassionate conservation.[12]

In the United States of America, the year 1864 saw the publication of two books which laid the foundation for Romantic and Utilitarian conservation traditions in America. The posthumous publication of Henry David Thoreau's Walden established the grandeur of unspoiled nature as a citadel to nourish the spirit of man. A very different book from George Perkins Marsh, Man and Nature, later subtitled "The Earth as Modified by Human Action", catalogued his observations of man exhausting and altering the land from which his sustenance derives.

The consumer conservation ethic has been defined as the attitudes and behaviors held and engaged in by individuals and families that ultimately serve to reduce overall societal consumption of energy.[13][14] The conservation movement has emerged from the advancements of moral reasoning.[15] Increasing numbers of philosophers and scientists have made its maturation possible by considering the relationships between human beings and organisms with the same rigor.[16] This social ethic primarily relates to local purchasing, moral purchasing, the sustained, and efficient use of renewable resources, the moderation of destructive use of finite resources, and the prevention of harm to common resources such as air and water quality, the natural functions of a living earth, and cultural values in a built environment. These practices are used to slow down the accelerating rate in which extinction is occurring at. The origins of this ethic can be traced back to many different philosophical and religious beliefs; that is, these practices has been advocated for centuries. In the past, conservationism has been categorized under a spectrum of views, including anthropocentric, utilitarian conservationism, and radical eco-centric green eco-political views.

More recently, the three major movements has been grouped to become what we now know as conservation ethic. The person credited with formulating the conservation ethic in the United States is former president, Theodore Roosevelt.[17]


The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem. Unless we solve that problem, it will avail us little to solve all others.

Theodore Roosevelt[18]

The term "conservation" was coined by Gifford Pinchot in 1907. He told his close friend United States President Theodore Roosevelt who used it for a national conference of governors in 1908.[19]

In common usage, the term refers to the activity of systematically protecting natural resources such as forests, including biological diversity. Carl F. Jordan defines biological conservation as:[20]

a philosophy of managing the environment in a manner that does not despoil, exhaust or extinguish.

While this usage is not new, the idea of biological conservation has been applied to the principles of ecology, biogeography, anthropology, economy, and sociology to maintain biodiversity.

The term "conservation" itself may cover the concepts such as cultural diversity, genetic diversity, and the concept of movements environmental conservation, seedbank curation (preservation of seeds), and gene bank coordination (preservation of animals' genetic material). These are often summarized as the priority to respect diversity.

Much recent movement in conservation can be considered a resistance to commercialism and globalization. Slow Food is a consequence of rejecting these as moral priorities, and embracing a slower and more locally focused lifestyle.

Sustainable living is a lifestyle that people are beginning to adopt, promoting to make decisions that would help protect biodiversity.[21] The small lifestyle changes that promote sustainability will eventually accumulate into the proliferation of biological diversity. Regulating the ecolabeling of products from fisheries, controlling for sustainable food production, or keeping the lights off during the day are some examples of sustainable living.[22][23] However, sustainable living is not a simple and uncomplicated approach. A 1987 Brundtland Report expounds on the notion of sustainability as a process of change that looks different for everyone: "It is not a fixed state of harmony, but rather a process of change in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development, and institutional change are made consistent with future as well as present needs. We do not pretend that the process is easy or straightforward."[24] Simply put, sustainable living does make a difference by compiling many individual actions that encourage the protection of biological diversity.


Daintree Rainforest in Queensland, Australia

Distinct trends exist regarding conservation development. The need for conserving land has only recently intensified during what some scholars refer to as the Capitalocene epoch. This era marks the beginning of colonialism, globalization, and the industrial revolution that has led to global land change as well as climate change.

While many countries' efforts to preserve species and their habitats have been government-led, those in the North Western Europe tended to arise out of the middle-class and aristocratic interest in natural history, expressed at the level of the individual and the national, regional or local learned society. Thus countries like Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, etc. had what would be called non-governmental organizations – in the shape of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, National Trust and County Naturalists' Trusts (dating back to 1889, 1895, and 1912 respectively) Natuurmonumenten, Provincial Conservation Trusts for each Dutch province, Vogelbescherming, etc. – a long time before there were national parks and national nature reserves.[25] This in part reflects the absence of wilderness areas in heavily cultivated Europe, as well as a longstanding interest in laissez-faire government in some countries, like the UK, leaving it as no coincidence that John Muir, the Scottish-born founder of the National Park movement (and hence of government-sponsored conservation) did his sterling work in the US, where he was the motor force behind the establishment of such national parks as Yosemite and Yellowstone. Nowadays, officially more than 10 percent of the world is legally protected in some way or the other, and in practice, private fundraising is insufficient to pay for the effective management of so much land with protective status.

Protected areas in developing countries, where probably as many as 70–80 percent of the species of the world live, still enjoy very little effective management and protection. Some countries, such as Mexico, have non-profit civil organizations and landowners dedicated to protecting vast private property, such is the case of Hacienda Chichen's Maya Jungle Reserve and Bird Refuge in Chichen Itza, Yucatán.[26] The Adopt A Ranger Foundation has calculated that worldwide about 140,000 rangers are needed for the protected areas in developing and transition countries. There are no data on how many rangers are employed at the moment, but probably less than half the protected areas in developing and transition countries have any rangers at all and those that have them are at least 50% short. This means that there would be a worldwide ranger deficit of 105,000 rangers in the developing and transition countries.[citation needed]

The terms conservation and preservation are frequently conflated outside the academic, scientific, and professional kinds of literature. The United States' National Park Service offers the following explanation of the important ways in which these two terms represent very different conceptions of environmental protection ethics:

Conservation and preservation are closely linked and may indeed seem to mean the same thing. Both terms involve a degree of protection, but how that protection is carried out is the key difference. Conservation is generally associated with the protection of natural resources, while preservation is associated with the protection of buildings, objects, and landscapes. Put simply, conservation seeks the proper use of nature, while preservation seeks protection of nature from use.

— United States National Park Service[27]

During the environmental movement of the early 20th century, two opposing factions emerged: conservationists and preservationists. Conservationists sought to regulate human use while preservationists sought to eliminate human impact altogether."[28]

C. Anne Claus presents a distinction for conservation practices.[29] Claus divides conservation into conservation-far and conservation-near. Conservation-far is the means of protecting nature by separating it and safeguarding it from humans.[29] Means of doing this include the creation of preserves or national parks. They are meant to keep the flora and fauna away from human influence and have become a staple method in the west. Conservation-near however is conservation via connection. The method of reconnecting people to nature through traditions and beliefs to foster a desire to protect nature.[29] The basis is that instead of forcing compliance to separate from nature onto the people, instead conservationists work with locals and their traditions to find conservation efforts that work for all.[29]

Evidence-based conservation

Main article: Evidence-based conservation

Evidence-based conservation is the application of evidence in conservation management actions and policy making. It is defined as systematically assessing scientific information from published, peer-reviewed publications and texts, practitioners' experiences, independent expert assessment, and local and indigenous knowledge on a specific conservation topic. This includes assessing the current effectiveness of different management interventions, threats and emerging problems, and economic factors.[30]

Evidence-based conservation was organized based on the observations that decision making in conservation was based on intuition and/or practitioner experience often disregarding other forms of evidence of successes and failures (e.g. scientific information). This has led to costly and poor outcomes.[31] Evidence-based conservation provides access to information that will support decision making through an evidence-based framework of "what works" in conservation.[32]

The evidence-based approach to conservation is based on evidence-based practice which started in medicine and later spread to nursing, education,[33] psychology, and other fields. It is part of the larger movement towards evidence-based practices.

See also


  1. ^ Newman, Varner, Lunquist (2018). Defending Biodiversity. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781139024105.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ Milstein, T. & Castro-Sotomayor, J. (2020). Routledge Handbook of Ecocultural Identity. London, UK: Routledge.
  3. ^ MARRIS, EMMA (31 January 2019). "To keep the planet flourishing, 30% of Earth needs protection by 2030". National Geographic. Archived from the original on 3 March 2021. Retrieved 18 May 2021.
  4. ^ "New Australian Marine Parks Protect an Area Twice the Size of the Great Barrier Reef". Mongabay. Ecowatch. 14 May 2021. Retrieved 18 May 2021.
  5. ^ "Governments achieve target of protecting 17% of land globally". the Guardian. 19 May 2021. Retrieved 22 April 2022.
  6. ^ "2021's top ocean news stories (commentary)". Mongabay Environmental News. 28 December 2021. Retrieved 22 April 2022.
  7. ^ Januta, Andrea (1 March 2022). "Key takeaways from the IPCC report on climate impacts and adaptation". World Economic Forum. Retrieved 2 March 2022.
  8. ^ "Negotiators agree to historic biodiversity deal at COP15". euronews. 19 December 2022. Retrieved 19 December 2022.
  9. ^ Gardiner and Thompson (2017). The Oxford Handbook of Environmental Ethics. OUP.
  10. ^ "Animals to be formally recognised as sentient beings in domestic law". GOV.UK. Retrieved 1 December 2022.
  11. ^ Hawkins, Ronnie Zoe (1998). "Ecofeminism and Nonhumans: Continuity, Difference, Dualism, and Domination". Hypatia. 13 (1): 158–197. doi:10.1111/j.1527-2001.1998.tb01356.x. ISSN 0887-5367. JSTOR 3810611. S2CID 145174389.
  12. ^ Wallach, Arian D.; Batavia, Chelsea; Bekoff, Marc; Alexander, Shelley; Baker, Liv; Ben‐Ami, Dror; Boronyak, Louise; Cardilini, Adam P. A.; Carmel, Yohay; Celermajer, Danielle; Coghlan, Simon (2020). "Recognizing animal personhood in compassionate conservation". Conservation Biology. 34 (5): 1097–1106. doi:10.1111/cobi.13494. ISSN 1523-1739. PMC 7540678. PMID 32144823.
  13. ^ HALDEMAN, VIRGINIA A.; PETERS, JEANNE M.; TRIPPLE, PATRICIA A. (1987). "Measuring a Consumer Energy Conservation Ethic: An Analysis of Components". The Journal of Consumer Affairs. 21 (1): 70–85. doi:10.1111/j.1745-6606.1987.tb00188.x. ISSN 0022-0078. JSTOR 23859354.
  14. ^ Leonard-Barton, Dorothy (1981). "Voluntary Simplicity Lifestyles and Energy Conservation". Journal of Consumer Research. 8 (3): 243–252. doi:10.1086/208861. ISSN 0093-5301. JSTOR 2488881.
  15. ^ VERNEY, RALPH (1984). "Towards a Conservation Ethic". Journal of the Royal Society of Arts. 132 (5336): 501–512. ISSN 0035-9114. JSTOR 41373777.
  16. ^ "BIOPHILIA 2017". Biophilia. 2017 (3): v. 2017. doi:10.14813/ibra.2017.v. ISSN 2186-8433.
  17. ^ "The Conservation Ethic & The Founding the US Forest Service". Alpha Steward. 10 April 2020. Retrieved 21 June 2020.
  18. ^ Theodore Roosevelt, Address to the Deep Waterway Convention Memphis, TN, October 4, 1907
  19. ^ Carolyn Merchant, ed. Major problems in American environmental history: documents and essays (1993) pp. 340, 356–357.
  20. ^ Jordan, Carl (1995). Replacing Quantity With Quality As a Goal for Global Management. Wiley. ISBN 0-471-59515-2.
  21. ^ Cities, Sustainable Development Solutions Network Thematic Group on Sustainable (2013). "Resiliency and Environmental Sustainability". The Urban Opportunity: 28–34.
  22. ^ Kaiser, Michel J.; Edwards-Jones, Gareth (2006). "The Role of Ecolabeling in Fisheries Management and Conservation". Conservation Biology. 20 (2): 392–398. doi:10.1111/j.1523-1739.2006.00319.x. hdl:1912/843. ISSN 0888-8892. JSTOR 3591347. PMID 16903100. S2CID 30842161.
  23. ^ Bale, J.S; van Lenteren, J.C; Bigler, F (6 September 2007). "Biological control and sustainable food production". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 363 (1492): 761–776. doi:10.1098/rstb.2007.2182. ISSN 0962-8436. PMC 2610108. PMID 17827110.
  24. ^ Development., World Commission on Environment and (1991). Our common future. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-282080-X. OCLC 732496026.
  25. ^ Webb, L. J. (Leonard James) (1970), Nature protection in Europe, Wildlife Preservation Society of Australia (published 1968), ISBN 978-0-909971-01-4
  26. ^, "The Importance of Eco-Design"
  27. ^ "Conservation, Preservation, and the National Park Service - Teachers (U.S. National Park Service)".
  28. ^ National Park Service: Conservation versus preservation
  29. ^ a b c d Claus, C. Anne (2020). Drawing the sea near : satoumi and coral reef conservation in Okinawa. Minneapolis. ISBN 978-1-5179-0662-7.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  30. ^ "The Basics". Conservation Evidence. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  31. ^ Sutherland, William J; Pullin, Andrew S.; Dolman, Paul M.; Knight, Teri M. (June 2004). "The need for evidence-based conservation". Trends in Ecology and Evolution. 19 (6): 305–308. doi:10.1016/j.tree.2004.03.018. PMID 16701275.
  32. ^ Sutherland, William J. (July 2003). "Evidence-based Conservation". Conservation in Practice. 4 (3): 39–42. doi:10.1111/j.1526-4629.2003.tb00068.x.
  33. ^ David G. Hebert, (2022), "Nature Conservation and Music Sustainability: Fields with Shared Concerns", Canadian Journal of Environmental Education, 25, p.175–189.

Further reading