When agendas collide: Human welfare and biological conservation

Kai M.A. Chan, Robert Mitchell Pringle, Jai Ranganathan, Carol L. Boggs, Yvonne L. Chan, Paul R. Ehrlich, Peter K. Haff, Nicole E. Heller, Karim Al-Khafaji, Dena P. Macmynowski

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

234 Scopus citations


Conservation should benefit ecosystems, nonhuman organisms, and current and future human beings. Nevertheless, tension among these goals engenders potential ethical conflicts: conservationists' true motivations may differ from the justifications they offer for their activities, and conservation projects have the potential to disempower and oppress people. We reviewed the promise and deficiencies of integrating social, economic, and biological concerns into conservation, focusing on research in ecosystem services and efforts in community-based conservation. Despite much progress, neither paradigm provides a silver bullet for conservation's most pressing problems, and both require additional thought and modification to become maximally effective. We conclude that the following strategies are needed to make conservation more effective in our human-dominated world. (1) Conservation research needs to integrate with social scholarship in a more sophisticated manner. (2) Conservation must be informed by a detailed understanding of the spatial, temporal, and social distributions of costs and benefits of conservation efforts. Strategies should reflect this understanding, particularly by equitably distributing conservation's costs. (3) We must better acknowledge the social concerns that accompany biodiversity conservation; accordingly, sometimes we must argue for conservation for biodiversity's sake, not for its direct human benefits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-68
Number of pages10
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Ecology


  • Community-based conservation
  • Distribution of costs and benefits
  • Ecosystem services
  • Ethics
  • Local communities
  • Mediation
  • Poverty
  • Transdisciplinarity


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