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The glass is half-full: conservation has made a difference

August 12, 2011
"more conservation projects fail than succeed, and our highlighting of successes here should not be taken as a call to rest on our laurels. Instead, our aim is to engender hope and inspire others to continue their dedicated efforts."
- Conservation successes at micro-, meso- and macroscales

Don't despair: that's the message of a new paper in Trends in Ecology and Evolution, which argues that decades of conservation actions at multiple scales have had a positive impact for many of the world's endangered species.

While such actions have not yet turned back the tide of the current mass extinction crisis, they have achieved notable successes which often get lost in the gloom-and-doom news stories on biodiversity declines.

According to the paper, conservation actions take place on three scales. Microscale conservation focuses on a single species or ecosystem; mesoscale means conservation cooperation between a number of countries, such as efforts to curb the illegal wildlife trade or protect wide-ranging species; and finally macroscale means global organizations or campaigns, such as those that pressure multinational corporations to become more biodiversity friendly.

Conservation success stories

National protected areas, which occur at the micro-scale, have been one of conservationists' most notable achievements. Today, over 100,000 protected areas—national parks, wildlife refuges, game reserves, marine protected areas (MPAs), wildlife sanctuaries, etc.—cover some 7.3 million square miles (19 million kilometers). The paper points to a park in Central Asia as an example of how protected areas aid threatened species.

"Following the establishment of Bardia National Park in Nepal [...] the density of wild ungulates increased fourfold in just 22 years. This spike in prey base triggered increases in both endangered tiger (Panthera tigris) and threatened leopard (Panthera pardus) densities," the authors write.

Protected areas have also gone a long way in curbing deforestation, especially in the Brazilian Amazon.

While the war to save the diverse life on Earth hasn't been won yet, some notable battles may point the way.

Here’s a link to the paper: Conservation successes at micro-, meso- and macroscales

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