New Research Shows that Government Funding for Conservation Makes an Important Impact

Now, there’s proof that projected declines in endangered species can be stemmed by conservation efforts.

by Natasha Tworoski

A new study by Anthony Waldron and colleagues published in the well-respected journal Nature has produced extensive empirical data to show that government funding for conservation has significantly slowed the rate of global biodiversity loss. While there is still an overall decline in biodiversity, support by governments worldwide is having an important positive effect.

The authors used data from IUCN’s (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species, as well as factors such as a country’s wealth, economic growth, development rates, agricultural rates, the total number of species and the conservation status of those species. Each country was then given a “biodiversity decline score.”

From 1996 to 2008, 109 countries spent a combined 14.4 billion dollars at a national level on conservation. This resulted in a 29% reduction in the projected decline of species!

Incredibly, Mauritius, Seychelles, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Poland and Ukraine actually saw their biodiversity increase over the course of those 12 years. In a time when it seems like there is doom on the horizon for all wildlife, this paper gives both hope and the formula for a different outcome.

While humans globally continue to thrive and increase in number, a tragic consequence is the loss of more species every year. Besides encouraging countries to dedicate more funding to conservation efforts, the results of this study show what factors we should triage when developing a model that allows humans and all other life on the planet to coexist. The model uses conservation investment, economic growth, agricultural growth and human population growth as predicting factors. It will enable each country to determine the funding needed for conservation, based on their individual development rates.

Findings also revealed that 60% of the global biodiversity loss that occurred was due to just seven countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, China, India, Australia and the United States. This is particularly troubling, given the decision by President Donald Trump earlier this summer to remove the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, a United Nations document signed by 190 countries to limit the global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius by 2020. The administration has continually made decisions that are harmful to the environment, most recently the December 4th declaration to reduce 85% of Bears Ears National Monument and almost half of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, likely opening it up to oil drilling, mining and development.

We can’t ignore that overall, biodiversity is still in a significant decline, and our current efforts are inadequate to prevent widespread extinctions. However, the main message of this article is one of hope and also a call to action. The damage we as a species have done to the planet is not locked in; there is still time to protect what we have. Please vote for political candidates who support conservation and a green future, and encourage your current elected politicians to do so as well.

Mountain gorillas are a flagship species of the Virunga National Park, one of the most biologically diverse regions on the planet.

The U.S is one of 7 countries responsible for 60% of biodiversity loss, largely in part to loss of species in Hawaii. The Palila is critically endangered. Will it be next?