Net positive outcomes for nature

Much research and policy effort is being expended on ways to conserve living nature while enabling the economic and social development needed to increase equity and end poverty. We propose this will only be possible if policy shifts away from conservation targets that focus on avoiding losses towards processes that consider net outcomes for biodiversity.

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Fig. 1: Paraphrased key content of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, valid until 2020, alongside some possible variations that would shift the focus towards net conservation outcomes.

Aichi Biodiversity Targets icons, copyright BIP/SCBD


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We thank G. M. Mace and C. Bryan for feedback on a draft version of this manuscript.

Author information




J.W.B., J.E.M.W., E.J.M.-G., M.J.B. and S.P.S. conceived the manuscript. J.W.B. wrote the manuscript, with support from J.E.M.W. and E.J.M.-G. P.F.E.A., W.N.S.A., J.B., T.M.B., M.J.B., A.H., M.M., J.G.R., N.S., S.P.S., S.N.S. and S.O.S.E.z.E. provided substantive insights and gave comment and review.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Joseph W. Bull.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

Extended data

Extended Data Fig. 1 Map of the full extent of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Latest estimate of the spatial distribution of anthropogenic impacts upon nature, the terrestrial ‘human footprint’ [data from 18,19], against proposed development corridors for BRI [38]. Note that the human footprint addresses the ‘ecosystems’ dimension of biodiversity only. Yellow border = area displayed in Box 1 (China and Central Asia).

Extended Data Fig. 2 Map of the central and eastern BRI region featuring examples of primarily illegally traded wildlife products, along with the approximate direction of trade.

Overlaid onto the human footprint and main BRI corridors displayed in Extended Data Fig. 1.

Extended Data Fig. 3 Global Inventory of Biodiversity Offset Policies (GIBOP) policy scores (0 – 3) for the 196 parties to the CBD.

The recently developed GIBOP [26] reports the results of the most comprehensive global analysis of national net outcome-type conservation policies. The interpretation of GIBOP policy score, in terms of the existence of national policies applying a mitigation hierarchy to biodiversity impacts, is given in the figure. Inset: Rule of Law index (World Justice Project, 2019) scores against GIBOP policy score for the 123 of those countries for which data are available, giving an indication of the likelihood of legal compliance, grouped again by GIBOP policy score.

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Bull, J.W., Milner-Gulland, E.J., Addison, P.F.E. et al. Net positive outcomes for nature. Nat Ecol Evol 4, 4–7 (2020).

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