A study co-authored by researchers at the University of Georgia provides a glimmer of hope to the conversation surrounding conservation.
The study, published in Nature, estimates that the $14.4 billion spent by countries between 1992 and 2003 decreased biodiversity loss by 29 percent.
"For 25 years, we have known that we need to spend more on nature conservation, or face a modern mass extinction as serious as that of the dinosaurs," said Oxford University’s Anthony Waldron, lead scientist of the study, in the press release. “This finding should now encourage decision makers to re-engage with the Earth Summit's positive vision, and adequately bankroll the protection of Earth's biodiversity today."
According to the release, the study measured biodiversity loss from 1996 to 2008, relative to conservation funding between 1992 and 2003 in 109 countries. The delay in dates allowed appropriate lag time for conservation spending to have an impact on biodiversity, according to the scientists. The year 1992 is significant because it was when the United Nations met at the Rio Earth Summit to commit to conservation efforts.
To determine biodiversity loss country by country in the time period, the release said researchers relied on data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species. According to the release, researchers also analyzed data on population and economic growth and agricultural expansion to gauge pressure on individual species.
"The good news is that a lot of biodiversity would be protected for relatively little cost by investments in developing countries with high numbers of species … This model provides a framework we can use to balance human development with maintaining biodiversity," said senior author Dr. John Gittleman, dean of UGA’s Odum School of Ecology, in the press release. "In my view, this is an empirical scientific framework of true sustainability."
The release said that conservation spending was more effective in protecting biodiversity in poorer countries and also in countries with a higher concentration of species under threat.
According to the release, the study also found that 60 percent of the world's biodiversity loss was concentrated in seven countries: Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and the United States.
Most of the U.S.’s loss was isolated to Hawaii. In the same time period, seven countries actually saw their biodiversity improve: Fiji, Mauritius, Poland, Samoa, Seychelles , Tonga and Ukraine.
The release said the scientists hope that the study will motivate countries to commit to meeting biodiversity commitments by investing in conservation spending.