Understanding Nature Conservation: Why is Nature Conservation Important?

June 23, 2022
Avely Pütsep

Habitats are constantly changing through naturally occurring dynamics and human influence. But while Earth’s ecosystems can manage natural change, human actions leave devastating or irreversible effects on the environment. 

Earth has lost 60% of all terrestrial wildlife in the last 50 years and 90% of big ocean fish in the previous century. Humankind may be experiencing a mass extinction event, which is when 75 percent or more species are lost at a time. 

That’s why nature conservation must be taken seriously. 

Theodore Roosevelt, a former 20th-century president of the USA, once said: “The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem. Unless we solve that problem, it will avail us little to solve all others.” 

His words help to demonstrate that nature conservation has been an important topic in the past and that now really is the last chance to take action. 

Keep reading to learn about:

  • What is nature conservation
  • Why nature conservation is important
  • How individuals, landowners, and businesses can make a difference 

What is nature conservation? 

Nature conservation is the care and protection of Earth’s natural resources for current and future generations. 

Earth’s natural resources include air, minerals, plants, soil, water, and wildlife. 

Examples of nature conservation include: 

  • Restoring and maintaining habitats
  • Maintaining species diversity and genes
  • Maintaining ecosystems
  • Preventing wasteful use of natural resources
  • Maintaining environment functions 
  • Preventing deforestation
  • Reducing overfishing 

These all contribute to mitigating climate change to various extents. 

Nature conservation can take many forms

  • Gazetted protected areas, such as national parks 
  • Communal conservation efforts by indigenous peoples and local communities
  • Conservation of private lands

What are the examples of conservation efforts?

Protected areas across the world have different names and rules. 

Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) make up Natura 2000 across Europe. Ramsar Wetlands are wetlands that are considered to be of international significance.

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), National Nature Reserve (NNR), and Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) are national designations. Local Nature Reserve, Local Wildlife Site, and Local Geological Site are examples of local protected sites. 

What is the difference between nature conservation and preservation?

While nature conservation and nature preservation are similar because the goal is to protect nature, the way of doing it differs. Preservation means protecting nature from human use, while conservation seeks a sustainable use of nature by humans with activities like hunting, logging, or mining. 

Importance of nature conservation

Nature conservation is essential in protecting humans, animals, and plants as nature supports all life on Earth

An ecosystem is a community of living things and their environment. How they work in harmony and affect each other and their environment is very important. If any part of an ecosystem is damaged or removed, it creates a ‘knock-on’ effect. Every natural ecosystem works in balance. 

That is what nature conservation deals with: caring for and protecting the environment. 

“Nature conservation not only ensures the protection of our ecosystems and millions of species that depend on them, but also contributes to the prosperity of the millions of people (especially in developing countries) that depend on nature for their survival: food, water, and protection against extreme events.” -- Karen Gonzalez Downs, Biodiversity and Natural Climate Solution Expert at Single.Earth

There are three main reasons for nature conservation.

  • For humankind’s survival: to repair some of the damage done by humans and maintain the environment for future generations.  
  • For biodiversity: to maintain species diversity for our benefit and that of wildlife.
  • For heritage: to provide opportunities for education and the enjoyment of the environment.

Nature conservation is crucial to keeping Earth habitable for humans. 

Conservation for humankind’s survival: maintaining a habitable planet

Climate change and biodiversity loss are two of the biggest threats to human survival. They’re connected, and one can’t be solved without the other, as everything in nature is connected. 

Continued human population growth has led to unsustainable consumption rates of natural resources, resulting in a loss of Earth’s biodiversity. 

Without quick action, likely outcomes by 2050 include:

  • Temperatures will completely change: London resembles Barcelona, Seattle feels like San Francisco, and Madrid like Marrakech
  • Tropical rainforests, once lush and biodiverse, will change to savannahs and grassland
  • 300 million people will struggle with annual floods and have to displace
  • Vast proportions of crops will be destroyed by floods, droughts, and storms, spiking food prices
  • Covid-19 will just have been one of many global pandemics

Humankind’s survival also depends on maintaining the carbon cycle, as forests and oceans are one of the largest carbon sinks on Earth. Around 25% of global CO2 emissions are sequestered in forests, grasslands, and rangeland. 

Near unbearable living conditions will arise if no serious changes are taken to protect nature. Without humans, Earth will rebuild. It’s people’s future on this planet that is under threat. 

Nature conservation is crucial for many reasons which are all linked to humankind’s survival: 

  • Studies have shown that people associate green spaces and wild areas with personal wellbeing, security, freedom, and an escape from stress
  • Trees filter out air pollution and improve air quality, improving physical health 
  • Many doctors and botanists argue that no species should be allowed to go extinct because of their potential medical value 
  • Educating people on the importance of nature conservation to take action

“Building the Earthsavers community for everyone passionate about halting climate change and biodiversity loss has clearly shown there are so many people who want to make a difference. They just don’t know where to start. By giving people the means, I’m certain together we can make a difference.” -- Avely Pütsep, Content Marketing Manager at Single.Earth

Conservation for biodiversity: wildlife conservation is key

Wildlife conservation is protecting plant and animal species and their habitats. Biodiversity is at the heart of the world’s ecosystems. 

Nature conservation for biodiversity includes marine and terrestrial life.  

Scientists estimate that current extinction rates are about a thousand times higher than expected based on the fossil record.

The main factors driving biodiversity loss include:

  • habitat destruction
  • climate change
  • invasive species
  • overexploitation
  • pollution

Yet, animals and plants are responsible for vital services like: 

  • Oxygen production
  • Water regulation 
  • Soil retaining 
  • Providing flood protection
  • Regulating climate
  • Preventing erosion

More plant and animal species are in danger of extinction without nature conservation. Without fundamental changes, by 2050 every 6th animal species will be lost to extinction. 

If an animal becomes extinct, it affects the whole ecosystem due to changes in the food chain, for example: 

  • A predator eating certain animals prevents those animals becoming too numerous and over-eating certain plants in an area. 
  • Even tiny insects matter. For example, without bees and other pollinating insects, many plants cannot reproduce.

Forest conservation is vital to protecting nature as forests are home to over 60,000 different tree species, 80% of amphibian species, 75% of bird species, and 68% of mammal species.

“Biodiversity underpins all life on Earth and ranges from genes to plants, to us humans and even the differences among ourselves. All different forms of life have functions on our planet.

Animals can disperse seeds, enrich the soil, and pollinate our crops to create food. Plants, fungi, and trees provide us with medicine against diseases and absorb the carbon from the air to provide a stable climate. Trees and mangroves protect us against storms and floods and clean the air we breathe and the water we drink. 

All this makes it safe for us people to live on Earth”. – Shaya van Houdt, Biodiversity and Natural Climate Solution Expert at Single.Earth

Conservation for heritage: traditions matter and protect nature

Conservation for heritage aims to educate and allow the environment to be enjoyed. Tradition and interpretation are two of the most popular areas of nature conservation heritage. 

Tradition demonstrates that sometimes the old ways of nature conservation are efficient and can be helpful today.

Traditional conservation techniques include hedge-laying, coppicing, and dry stone walling. Often seen as labor-intensive, they can bring about the conditions for species to thrive and minimize damage to surrounding habitats. 

Indigenous people’s rights often go hand in hand with protecting nature. Maori culture in New Zealand still uses ancient traditional knowledge. Humans are deeply connected with nature, and the two are equal and interdependent. 

“We have been here forever and we know the natural cycle of things. We know when there is a blip, we know when there is a glitch. We know when something is going down in terms of sustainability. So we need to be heard more clearly.” – Catherine Davis, Maori leader

Interpretation is a part of heritage and examines the distribution of species and habitats, which often provide clues about the past. Clues may be found showing the purpose of lands and how they were used, especially when combined with archaeological and archive records. 

Just some examples of interpretation in nature conservation are: 

  • Pollarded trees are often clues to old boundaries or remains of wood pastures
  • Small irregular-shaped fields enclosed by dry stone walls of massive boulders can indicate a Celtic origin
  • Wild service trees, woodland hawthorn, small-leaved lime, and oxlip in hedgerows can mean remnants of ancient woodland

Conservation of heritage can tell about history and show the benefits of those old traditional ways that still work for nature conservation. 

How can we make a difference and conserve our environment?

Humans have already transformed the majority (70%) of the Earth’s land area. Land-use change and (over) exploitation of natural resources are pushing us to the verge of irreversible climate change and biodiversity loss. 

A change needs to happen, fast. 

The UN message is that 30% of biodiversity will have to be protected by 2030. “At least 30 percent of terrestrial and inland water areas and 30 percent of oceans must be conserved through an effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative, well-connected systems of highly protected areas and Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measures.” says the Joint Statement on Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. 

Single.Earth, a GreenTech company, was founded to stop biodiversity loss and climate change by enabling everyone to contribute to nature conservation. Earth's health will be connected to wealth with nature-backed MERIT tokens to make real change happen.

To support this vital connection between nature and the economy: 

  • The Dasgupta review of how humankind values, uses, and interacts with nature from 2021 also confirms that ‘Nature’s value must be at the heart of economics.’
  • In 2021, United Nations adopted a landmark framework to integrate natural capital into economic reporting

“There’s no time for idealistic solutions. Single.Earth is building a nature-backed economy that fits into our lives. The first part is paying landowners for protecting and maintaining the ecosystem that makes this planet habitable for us humans. The second part is turning the economy upside down. We need to shift from a world based on economic growth to a world where the economy is built on how much nature can provide us.” -- Merit Valdsalu, co-founder and CEO of Single.Earth said in her TedX speech.

Single.Earth's platform for landowners is a way for a landowner to:

  • Learn how much they could earn from not destroying the land
  • Gain a free preliminary estimate of their land’s potential ecological value, starting with carbon sequestration, the biodiversity estimate is in the works

Single.Earth will enable everyone -- people, businesses, institutions, landowners -- to unlock a transformational change by contributing to nature protection.

“Single.Earth empowers landowners to participate in nature conservation while preserving their lands to enhance ecosystem services, protect biological diversity, and help maintain a healthier environment. Helping conserve our natural resources and preventing further destruction can lead to the wellbeing and longevity of our planet.” -- Donalda Karnauskaite, Head of Research at Single.Earth

There is still a chance to keep nature thriving

Nature conservation lets nature do its thing, keeping Earth habitable for humans and biodiversity thriving. 

If you’re interested in learning more about nature, sustainability, and halting climate change and biodiversity loss, Single.Earth’s blog is for you. Why not give The Evolution of Our Climate as Described by David Attenborough or a Complete Guide to Forest Conservation From Importance to Methods a read next? 

Single.Earth is on a mission to help preserve and restore existing ecosystems.

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