Habitat conservation

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Tree planting is an aspect of habitat conservation. In each plastic tube a hardwood tree has been planted.
Ponderosa Pine
trees that were selectively harvested.

Habitat conservation is a management practice that seeks to

range.[1] It is a priority of many groups that cannot be easily characterized in terms of any one ideology

History of the conservation movement

For much of human history, nature was seen as a

timber, and minerals

Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, social views started to change and conservation principles were first practically applied to the

forest conservation activities in British India through the establishment of Forest Departments.[3]


other colonies, as well to the United States,[5][6][7] where Yellowstone National Park was opened in 1872 as the world's first national park.[8]

Rather than focusing on the economic or material benefits from nature, humans began to appreciate the value of nature itself and the need to protect it.[9] By the mid-20th century, countries such as the United States, Canada, and Britain instigated laws and legislation in order to ensure that the most fragile and beautiful environments would be protected for posterity. Today, with the help of

Conservation Organisations
, are paramount in ensuring generations that follow understand the importance of natural resource conservation.

Values of natural habitat

Natural habitats can provide

economic profit, for example timber is harvested from forests and clean water is obtained from natural streams. However, land development from anthropogenic economic growth often causes a decline in the ecological integrity of nearby natural habitat. For instance, this was an issue in the northern Rocky Mountains of the US.[11]

However, there is also the economic value in conserving natural habitats. Financial profit can be made from tourist revenue, for example in the tropics where species diversity is high, or in recreational sports which take place in natural environments such as hiking and mountain biking. The cost of repairing damaged ecosystems is considered to be much higher than the cost of conserving natural ecosystems.[12]

Measuring the worth of conserving different habitat areas is often criticized as being too utilitarian from a philosophical point of view.[13]


Habitat conservation is important in maintaining biodiversity, which refers to the variability in populations, organisms, and gene pools, as well as habitats and ecosystems.[14] Biodiversity is also an essential part of global food security. There is evidence to support a trend of accelerating erosion of the genetic resources of agricultural plants and animals.[15] An increase in genetic similarity of agricultural plants and animals means an increased risk of food loss from major epidemics. Wild species of agricultural plants have been found to be more resistant to disease, for example the wild corn species Teosinte is resistant to 4 corn diseases that affect human grown crops.[16] A combination of seed banking and habitat conservation has been proposed to maintain plant diversity for food security purposes.[17] It has been shown that focusing conversation efforts on ecosystems "within multiple trophic levels" can lead to a better functioning ecosystem with more biomass.[18]

Classifying environmental values

Pearce and Moran outlined the following method for classifying environmental uses:[19]

  • Direct extractive uses: e.g. timber from forests, food from plants and animals
  • Indirect uses: e.g. ecosystem services like flood control, pest control, erosion protection
  • Optional uses: future possibilities e.g. unknown but potential use of plants in chemistry/medicine
  • Non-use values:
    • Bequest value (benefit of an individual who knows that others may benefit from it in future)
    • Passive use value (sympathy for natural environment, enjoyment of the mere existence of a particular species)


Natural causes

habitat loss include climate change, catastrophic events such as volcanic explosions and through the interactions of invasive and non-invasive species. Natural climate change, events have previously been the cause of many widespread and large scale losses in habitat. For example, some of the mass extinction events generally referred to as the "Big Five" have coincided with large scale such as the Earth entering an ice age, or alternate warming events.[20] Other events in the big five also have their roots in natural causes, such as volcanic explosions and meteor collisions.[21][22] The Chicxulub impact is one such example, which has previously caused widespread losses in habitat as the Earth either received less sunlight or grew colder, causing certain fauna and flora to flourish whilst others perished. Previously known warm areas in the tropics, the most sensitive habitats on Earth, grew colder, and areas such as Australia developed radically different flora and fauna to those seen today. The big five mass extinction events have also been linked to sea level changes, indicating that large scale marine species loss was strongly influenced by loss in marine habitats, particularly shelf habitats.[23] Methane-driven oceanic eruptions have also been shown to have caused smaller mass extinction events.[24]

Human impacts

Humans have been the cause of many species’ extinction. Due to humans’ changing and modifying their environment, the habitat of other species often become altered or destroyed as a result of human actions.[25] The altering of habitats will cause habitat fragmentation, reducing the species' habitat and decreasing their dispersal range. This increases species isolation which then causes their population to decline.[25] Even before the modern industrial era, humans were having widespread, and major effects on the environment. A good example of this is found in Aboriginal Australians and Australian megafauna.[26] Aboriginal hunting practices, which included burning large sections of forest at a time, eventually altered and changed Australia's vegetation so much that many herbivorous megafauna species were left with no habitat and were driven into extinction. Once herbivorous megafauna species became extinct, carnivorous megafauna species soon followed. In the recent past, humans have been responsible for causing more extinctions within a given period of time than ever before.

biodiversity hotspots are home to millions of habitat specialists, which do not exist beyond a tiny area.[28] Once their habitat is destroyed, they cease to exist. This destruction has a follow-on effect, as species which coexist or depend upon the existence of other species also become extinct, eventually resulting in the collapse of an entire ecosystem.[29][30]
These time-delayed extinctions are referred to as the extinction debt, which is the result of destroying and fragmenting habitats. As a result of anthropogenic modification of the environment, the extinction rate has climbed to the point where the Earth is now within a
sixth mass extinction event, as commonly agreed by biologists.[31] This has been particularly evident, for example, in the rapid decline in the number of amphibian species worldwide.[32]

Approaches and methods of habitat conservation

Adaptive management addresses the challenge of scientific uncertainty in habitat conservation plans by systematically gathering and applying reliable information to enhance conservation strategies over time. This approach allows for adjustments in management practices based on new insights, making conservation efforts more effective.

species abundance and diversity), endangerment of encompassing ecosystems, and spatial distribution of that habitat.[34]

Habitat Restoration

Habitat restoration is a subset of habitat conservation and its goals include improving the habitat and resources ranging from one species to several species[35] The Society for Ecological Restoration International Science and Policy Working Group define restoration as "the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed."[36] The scale of habitat restoration efforts can range from small to large areas of land depending on the goal of the project.[37] Elements of habitat restoration include developing a plan and embedding goals within that plan, and monitoring and evaluating species.[38] Considerations such as the species type, environment, and context are aspects of planning a habitat restoration project.[37] Efforts to restore habitats that have been altered by anthropogenic activities has become a global endeavor, and is used to counteract the effects of habitat destruction by humans.[39][40] Miller and Hobbs state three constraints on restoration: "ecological, economic, and social" constraints.[37] Habitat restoration projects include Marine Debris Mitigation for Navassa Island National Wildlife Refuge in Haiti and Lemon Bay Preserve Habitat Restoration in Florida.[41]

Identifying priority habitats for conservation

Habitat conservation is vital for protecting species and ecological processes. It is important to conserve and protect the space/ area in which that species occupies.

Endangered Species Act
(ESA) the habitat that requires protection in an HCP is referred to as the ‘critical habitat’. Multiple-species HCPs are becoming more favourable than single-species HCPs as they can potentially protect an array of species before they warrant listing under the ESA, as well as being able to conserve broad ecosystem components and processes . As of January 2007, 484 HCPs were permitted across the United States, 40 of which covered 10 or more species. The San Diego Multiple Species Conservation Plan (MSCP) encompasses 85 species in a total area of 26,000-km2. Its aim is to protect the habitats of multiple species and overall biodiversity by minimizing development in sensitive areas.

HCPs require clearly defined goals and objectives, efficient monitoring programs, as well as successful communication and collaboration with stakeholders and land owners in the area. Reserve design is also important and requires a high level of planning and management in order to achieve the goals of the HCP. Successful reserve design often takes the form of a hierarchical system with the most valued habitats requiring high protection being surrounded by buffer habitats that have a lower protection status. Like HCPs, hierarchical reserve design is a method most often used to protect a single species, and as a result habitat corridors are maintained, edge effects are reduced and a broader suite of species are protected.

How much habitat is needed

A range of methods and models currently exist that can be used to determine how much habitat is to be conserved in order to sustain a

habitat loss leaves no alternative to conserving small areas. Furthermore, he suggests many endangered species which are of high conservation value, may only be restricted to small isolated patches
of habitat, and thus would be overlooked if larger areas were given a higher priority. The shift to conserving larger areas is somewhat justified in society by placing more value on larger vertebrate species, which naturally have larger habitat requirements.

Examples of current conservation organizations

The Nature Conservancy

Since its formation in 1951 The Nature Conservancy has slowly developed into one of the world's largest conservation organizations. Currently operating in over 30 countries, across five continents worldwide, The Nature Conservancy aims to protect nature and its assets for future generations.[44] The organization purchases land or accepts land donations with the intention of conserving its natural resources. In 1955 The Nature Conservancy purchased its first 60-acre plot near the New York/Connecticut border in the United States of America. Today the Conservancy has expanded to protect over 119 million acres of land, 5,000 river miles as well as participating in over 1000 marine protection programs across the globe . Since its beginnings The Nature Conservancy has understood the benefit in taking a scientific approach towards habitat conservation. For the last decade the organization has been using a collaborative, scientific method known as ‘Conservation by Design’. By collecting and analyzing scientific data The Conservancy is able to holistically approach the protection of various ecosystems. This process determines the habitats that need protection, specific elements that should be conserved as well as monitoring progress so more efficient practices can be developed for the future.[45]

The Nature Conservancy currently has a large number of diverse projects in operation. They work with countries around the world to protect forests, river systems, oceans, deserts and grasslands. In all cases the aim is to provide a sustainable environment for both the plant and animal life forms that depend on them as well as all future generations to come.[46] turtles

World Wildlife Fund (WWF)


World Wildlife Fund (WWF) was first formed in after a group of passionate conservationists signed what is now referred to as the Morges Manifesto.[47]
WWF is currently operating in over 100 countries across 5 continents with a current listing of over 5 million supporters. One of the first projects of WWF was assisting in the creation of the Charles Darwin Research Foundation which aided in the protection of diverse range of unique species existing on the Galápagos’ Islands, Ecuador. It was also a WWF grant that helped with the formation of the College of African Wildlife Management in Tanzania which today focuses on teaching a wide range of protected area management skills in areas such as ecology, range management and law enforcement.[48] The WWF has since gone on to aid in the protection of land in Spain, creating the
Democratic Republic of Congo, home to the world's largest protected wetlands. The WWF also initiated a debt-for-nature concept which allows the country to put funds normally allocated to paying off national debt, into conservation programs that protect its natural landscapes. Countries currently participating include Madagascar, the first country to participate which since 1989 has generated over $US50 million towards preservation, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Gabon, the Philippines and Zambia

Rare Conservation

Rare has been in operation since 1973 with current global partners in over 50 countries and offices in the United States of America, Mexico, the Philippines, China and Indonesia. Rare focuses on the human activity that threatens biodiversity and habitats such as overfishing and unsustainable agriculture. By engaging local communities and changing behaviour Rare has been able to launch campaigns to protect areas in most need of conservation.[49] The key aspect of Rare's methodology is their "Pride Campaign’s". For example, in the Andes in South America, Rare has incentives to develop watershed protection practices. In the Southeast Asia's "coral triangle" Rare is training fishers in local communities to better manage the areas around the coral reefs in order to lessen human impact.[50] Such programs last for three years with the aim of changing community attitudes so as to conserve fragile habitats and provide ecological protection for years to come.

WWF Netherlands

WWF Netherlands, along with ARK Nature, Wild Wonders of Europe and Conservation Capital have started the Rewilding Europe project. This project intents to rewild several areas in Europe.[51]

See also


  1. ^ Habitat Conservation Planning Branch. "Habitat Conservation". California Department of Fish & Game. Archived from the original on 2019-10-26. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
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  3. ^ Stebbing, E.P (1922)The forests of India vol. 1, pp. 72-81
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  5. ^ MUTHIAH, S. (Nov 5, 2007). "A life for forestry". The Hindu. Archived from the original on November 8, 2007. Retrieved 2009-03-09.
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  7. ^ America has been the context for both the origins of conservation history and its modern form, environmental history Archived 2012-03-13 at the Wayback Machine. Asiaticsociety.org.bd. Retrieved on 2011-09-01.
  8. ^ Haines, Aubrey (1996). The Yellowstone Story: A History of Our First National Park: Volume 1 Revised Edition. Yellowstone Association for Natural Science, History of Education.
  9. ^ "BC Spaces".
  10. ^ "Ecosystem Services". National Wildlife Federation. Retrieved 2023-04-11.
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  15. ^ "Convention on Biological Diversity" (PDF).
  16. ^ "Why should we care about biodiversity?".
  17. ^ "Australian Seed Bank Partnership".
  18. S2CID 2058427
  19. ^ Pearce, David (1994). The economic value of biodiversity.
  20. PMID 12524455
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  25. ^ a b Pardini, R.; Nichols, E.; Püttker, T. (2018), "Biodiversity Response to Habitat Loss and Fragmentation" (PDF), Encyclopedia of the Anthropocene, Elsevier, pp. 229–239, retrieved 2022-03-30
  26. S2CID 22761857
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  35. ^ Hall, L. S.; Krausman, P.R.; Morrison, M.L. (1997). ""The Habitat Concept and a Plea for Standard Terminology."". Wildlife Society Bulletin. 25: 173–82.
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  41. ^ "ArcGIS Web Application". www.habitat.noaa.gov. Retrieved 2023-04-04.
  42. S2CID 42533807
  43. ^ Noss, R. F. (1994). Saving Nature's Legacy, Protecting and Restoring Biodiversity. Washington, DC. p. 416.
  44. ^ "The Nature Conservancy". Archived from the original on 2012-09-19. Retrieved 2011-09-23.
  45. ^ "The Nature Conservancy". Archived from the original on 2011-09-16.
  46. ^ "The Nature Conservancy".
  47. ^ "World Wildlife Fund".
  48. ^ "World Wildlife Fund".
  49. ^ "Rare Conservation".
  50. ^ "Rare Conservation".
  51. ^ Rewilding Europe

External links