Letter

Reductions in global biodiversity loss predicted from conservation spending

Received:
Accepted:
Published online:

Abstract

Halting global biodiversity loss is central to the Convention on Biological Diversity and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals1,2, but success to date has been very limited3,4,5. A critical determinant of success in achieving these goals is the financing that is committed to maintaining biodiversity6,7,8,9; however, financing decisions are hindered by considerable uncertainty over the likely impact of any conservation investment6,7,8,9. For greater effectiveness, we need an evidence-based model10,11,12 that shows how conservation spending quantitatively reduces the rate of biodiversity loss. Here we demonstrate such a model, and empirically quantify how conservation investment between 1996 and 2008 reduced biodiversity loss in 109 countries (signatories to the Convention on Biological Diversity and Sustainable Development Goals), by a median average of 29% per country. We also show that biodiversity changes in signatory countries can be predicted with high accuracy, using a dual model that balances the effects of conservation investment against those of economic, agricultural and population growth (human development pressures)13,14,15,16,17,18. Decision-makers can use this model to forecast the improvement that any proposed biodiversity budget would achieve under various scenarios of human development pressure, and then compare these forecasts to any chosen policy target. We find that the impact of spending decreases as human development pressures grow, which implies that funding may need to increase over time. The model offers a flexible tool for balancing the Sustainable Development Goals of human development and maintaining biodiversity, by predicting the dynamic changes in conservation finance that will be needed as human development proceeds.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by UKDWP (A.W.), the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Hatch project 1009327 (D.C.M. and A.W.), the MacArthur Foundation through the Advancing Conservation in a Social Context research initiative (D.C.M. and J.T.R.), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Canada Discovery and Accelerator Grants (A.M.), the UK Natural Environment Research Council grants NE/I028068/1 and NE/K016431/1 (J.A.T.) and the Odum School of Ecology (J.L.G.). We thank J. Drake, P. Holland and P. Stephens for comments on earlier manuscripts.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Edward Grey Institute, Department of Zoology, Oxford University, Oxford OX1 3PS, UK.

    • Anthony Waldron
    •  & Joseph A. Tobias
  2. Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana–Champaign, Illinois 61801, USA.

    • Anthony Waldron
    •  & Daniel C. Miller
  3. Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment, University College London, London WC1E 6BT, UK.

    • Dave Redding
  4. Biology Department, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia V5A 1S6, Canada.

    • Arne Mooers
  5. Scimitar Scientific, Whitehorse, Yukon Y1A 6V6, Canada.

    • Tyler S. Kuhn
  6. Warnell School of Forestry & Natural Resources, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30602, USA.

    • Nate Nibbelink
  7. Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island 02912, USA.

    • J. Timmons Roberts
  8. Department of Life Sciences, Imperial College London, Silwood Park, Buckhurst Road, Ascot, Berkshire SL5 7PY, UK.

    • Joseph A. Tobias
  9. Odum School of Ecology, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30602, USA.

    • John L. Gittleman

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Contributions

A.W. conceived the study and analysed the data, based on ideas from A.M., J.L.G. and D.C.M.; A.W., D.C.M., D.R., N.N. and J.T.R. collected the data; A.W., A.M., T.S.K., D.C.M., J.L.G. and J.A.T. wrote the paper with contributions from all authors.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Anthony Waldron.

Reviewer Information Nature thanks A. Balmford, H. Possingham and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Publisher's note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Extended data

Supplementary information

PDF files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Information

    This file contains the Supplementary Results and a Supplementary Discussion. It shows results for the sensitivity tests, makes recommendations for the application of the model, gives detailed hypotheses behind interaction terms, discusses assumptions, and further clarifies model results.

  2. 2.

    Life Sciences Reporting Summary

  3. 3.

    Supplementary Table 4

    Individual adjustments to BDS values. Exceptions where species-specific IUCN reports suggested a different division of political responsibilities (Rij) to those estimated from range fractions (pij). Birds and mammals are reported as separate taxa, and species names are listed in alphabetical order within each of those subdivisions.

Excel files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Table 1

    BDS and mean annual conservation spending 1992-2003 by country. BDS = Biodiversity Decline Score. i$ = millions of international dollars (rounded to nearest i$0.1m). NA = historical strict biodiversity funding cannot be robustly estimated. 0.0 = mean investment in strict biodiversity conservation for 1992-2003 genuinely seems to have been extremely small or zero.

  2. 2.

    Supplementary Table 2

    Candidate models to predict BDS. The table also shows ordered AICc values for the continuous model part (main text) and related coefficients, rounded to two decimal places; note that the binomial model part does not generate AICc values. "x" indicates interactions; ^2=quadratic term, population = human population density; "declines (t-1)" = declines 1994-2000, (t-2) = declines 1988-1994. NA = not included in model.

  3. 3.

    Supplementary Table 3

    Predicted impact (reduction in decline) if biodiversity budgets had been i$1 million or i$5 million higher in each country. Reductions are predicted for BDS for the continuous model part, and for prob(BDS>0) for the binomial model part. "Recovery" indicates that BDS is predicted to become negative.

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