Scientists’ opinions on the global status and management of biological diversity

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The large investments needed if loss of biological diversity is to be stemmed will likely lead to increased public and political scrutiny of conservation strategies and the science underlying them. It is therefore crucial to understand the degree of consensus or divergence among scientists on core scientific perceptions and strategies most likely to achieve given objectives. I developed an internet survey designed to elucidate the opinions of conservation scientists. Conservation scientists (n=583) were unanimous (99.5%) in their view that a serious loss of biological diversity is likely, very likely, or virtually certain. Scientists’ agreement that serious loss is very likely or virtually certain ranged from 72.8% for Western Europe to 90.9% for Southeast Asia. Tropical coral ecosystems were perceived as the most seriously affected by loss of biological diversity; 88.0% of respondents familiar with that ecosystem type agreed that a serious loss is very likely or virtually certain. With regards to conservation strategies, scientists most often viewed understanding how people and nature interact in certain contexts and the role of biological diversity in maintaining ecosystem function as their priorities. Protection of biological diversity for its cultural and spiritual values and because of its usefulness to humans were low priorities, which suggests many scientists do not fully support the utilitarian concept of ecosystem services. Many scientists expressed a willingness to consider conservation triage, engage in active conservation interventions, and consider reframing conservation goals and measures of success for conservation of biological diversity in an era of climate change. Whereas some heterogeneity of opinion is evident, results of the survey show a clear consensus within the scientific community on core issues of the extent and geographic scope of loss of biological diversity and on elements that may contribute to successful conservation strategies in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1165-1175
Number of pages11
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011


  • Best-worst scaling
  • biodiversity loss
  • Conservation policy
  • Conservation strategies

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