Conservation Biology Essay

Cheap Custom Writing Service

This Conservation Biology Essay example is published for educational and informational purposes only. If you need a custom essay or research paper on this topic, please use our writing services. offers reliable custom essay writing services that can help you to receive high grades and impress your professors with the quality of each essay or research paper you hand in.

Conse rvation b iology i s a scientific field that studies the processes and patterns that maintain or alter biological diversity, and engages with applied research and policy in order to further biodiversity conservation. In order to achieve its positive and normative goals, conservation biology draws upon several subfields of ecology as well as the social sciences and philosophy to understand the human and ethical dimensions of ecological change and inform appropriate policy responses. Ecological subfields that contribute to basic and applied research in conservation biology include genetics, population and community ecology, as well as ecosystem and landscape ecology. Several social science disciplines-including economics, geography, anthropology, political science and sociology-have contributed theoretical and methodological tools.

The long history of human-induced transformations of the earth dates back at least to the dawn of plant domestication approximately 10,000 years ago; the conversion of natural ecosystems having accelerated in the past three centuries. Recent humaninduced transformations of the environment, however, are widely perceived to be unprecedented in scope, rate and magnitude, and a significant driving force of global environmental change. Human population growth, along with political-institutional, socioeconomic, technological, and cultural factors are the primary anthropogenic drivers of ecological change, and have led to biodiversity loss and species extinctions in several locales. Global-scale declines in biological diversity during recent history gained widespread scientific recognition by the 1970s; this led to the emergence of a multi-disciplinary conservation biology in the 1980s. Conservation biology as a field is a targeted response to this biodiversity loss, and blends traditional disciplinary research with applied scientific fields such as forestry and natural resource management. Michael Soule, the co-founder of the Society for Conservation Biology, referred to the immediacy of conservation needs when he referred to conservation biology as a crisis discipline, one that forces conservation scientists to balance scientific knowledge with policy advice, often despite prevailing uncertainty.

The field’s philosophical roots reach back several centuries. Biological diversity and nature in general has been valued based on its intrinsic worth as well as for utilitarian purposes, such as sustained flow of goods and services for the benefits of human societies. In the United States, one philosophical approach to conservation focused on a spiritual-aesthetic appreciation for nature and its intrinsic value, and may be traced to the ecocentric Romantic-Transcendental ethic as reflected in the writing and legacy of such figures as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and John Muir in the mid-1800s. The utilitarian perspective, espoused on the other hand by John Stuart Mill, Gifford Pinchot, and others, was rooted in an anthropocentric view of nature’s worth, and espoused the conservation of natural resources to ensure “the greatest good of the greatest number for the longest time.” Aldo Leopold’s Evolutionary-Ecological Land Ethic combined the tradition of the utilitarian resource conservationists with developments in the scientific disciplines of ecology and evolution, conceptualizing nature as a system of interacting parts, and laying the foundation for present-day conservation biology.

Meffe and Caroll (1994) propose three “guiding principles” for conservation biology: a focus on evolutionary change to better understand the dynamics of biodiversity through a historical perspective; a focus on the changing, stochastic, uncertain and non-equilibrium nature of ecosystems, which has increasingly replaced previous closed-system, equilibrium conceptualizations of most ecosystems; and a focus on human agency, in both its positive and negative aspects, for a better understanding and pragmatic approach to biodiversity conservation. These principles remain relevant for various scientific and applied/policy concerns within the discipline, including the design of nature reserves, restoration ecology and the management of endangered species.

Species Diversity

Species diversity has been the target of most conservation efforts for the longest time, and of significant biodiversity legislation, such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA). The identification of global “hotspots” of biodiversity, mostly located in tropical systems, also focuses on areas with very high levels of species diversity and endemism, as well as the threat of habitat loss. Rare, long-lived, and keystone species may often be particularly vulnerable to extinction. However, deciding what constitutes a species is no simple task, and different conceptualizations of species (e.g., biological, cladistic, evolutionary, ecological, and others) pose scientific challenges to their definition and therefore conservation. Most legislation is based on the biological species concept. Species richness can be divided into three major components: the number of species present in a small homogenous habitat; changing species composition across a range of habitats (e.g., along an environmental gradient), and diversity across larger spatial scales, such as landscape gradients.

Although species afford a useful framework for conservation and provide publicly and legally identifiable entities that may be valued, tracked, and managed, a species-only approach to conservation fails to address several fundamental threats to ecosystems and habitats. Structural, compositional and functional aspects of biodiversity are now commonly conceptualized at a number of critical hierarchical scales, including genes, species, populations, communities, ecosystems, and landscapes, that include both spatial and temporal variability and change.

Sustainable Development

Conservation biologists now combine basic and applied scientific research with resource monitoring, spatial analysis and decision support systems such as satellite image processing and geographic information systems to track changes in ecosystems and habitat. In addition, the field has increasingly opened up to the concept of sustainable development, acknowledging the interdependence of human development needs and environmental conservation. The United Nations Man and the Biosphere Program was among the first attempts to explicitly move from earlier preservationist approaches to a more pragmatic and socially aware conservationist approach by adopting the goal of ecologically sustainable economic development for Biosphere Reserve Conservation.

Participatory conservation-development is another relatively recent trend in conservation biology, wherein local communities are identified as critical stakeholders in the conservation process, and their participation is sought in research, planning, monitoring, and educational activities. In reality, however, the integration of conservation with development in protected areas can be difficult. Conservation/development policies in many protected reserves may fail to protect biodiversity, or have socially detrimental impacts such as wildlife-livestock conflicts, social displacement, armed conflicts, and strengthened authoritarian regimes. Effective conservation policy requires an approach that combines basic ecological/ biodiversity research and effective monitoring/modeling tools with social science research and policy analysis that highlights the complex and dynamic interactions among communities; prevailing land tenure, property regimes, policy and market institutions, and local ecological systems.


  1. K. Meffe and C.R. Carroll, Principles of Conservation Biology (Sinauer Associates, 1994);
  2. F. Noss, “Indicators for Monitoring Biodiversity: A Hierarchical Approach,” Conservation Biology (v.4, 1990);
  3. Pinchot, Breaking New Ground (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1947);
  4. L. Turner, R.W. Clark, J.F. Kates, J.T. Mathews, and W.B. Meyer, eds., The Earth as Transformed by Human Action: Global and Regional Changes in the Biosphere Over the Past 300 Years (Cambridge University Press, 1990);
  5. P.M. Vitousek, “Beyond Global Warming: Ecology and Global Change,” Ecology (v.75, 1994).

See also:


Always on-time


100% Confidentiality

Special offer!