Smaller human populations are neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for biodiversity conservation

Huges, Alice C; Tougeron, Kévin; Martin, Dominic A; Menga, Filippo; Rosado, Bruno H P; Villasante, Sebastian; Madgulkar, Shweta; Gonçalves, Fernando; Geneletti, Davide; Diele-Viegas, Luisa Maria; Berger, Sebastian; Colla, Sheila R; de Andrade Kamimura, Vitor; Caggiano, Holly; Melo, Felipe; de Oliveira Dias, Marcelo Guilherme; Kellner, Elke; do Couto, Edivando Vitor (2023). Smaller human populations are neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for biodiversity conservation. Conservation biology, 277, p. 109841. Wiley 10.1016/j.biocon.2022.109841

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Human population (often treated as overpopulation) has long been blamed as the main cause of biodiversity loss. Whilst this simplistic explanation may seem convenient, understanding the accuracy of the statement is crucial to develop effective priorities and targets to manage and reverse ongoing biodiversity loss. If untrue, the assertion may undermine practical and effective measures currently underway to counter biodiversity loss by distracting from true drivers, alienating some of the most diverse countries in the world, and failing to tackle the structural inequalities which may be behind global biodiversity declines. Through examining the drivers of biodiversity loss in highly biodiverse countries, we show that it is not population driving the loss of habitats, but rather the growth of commodities for export, particularly soybean and oil-palm, primarily for livestock feed or biofuel consumption in higher income economies. Thus, inequitable consumption drives global biodiversity loss, whilst population is used to scapegoat responsibility. Instead, the responsibilities are clear and have recently been summarized by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services IPBES: Leverage points for biodiversity conservation lie in reducing unsustainable consumption through diet shifts, tracking supply chains, and technological innovation as well as ensuring sustainable production to reduce biodiversity losses associated with industrial agriculture.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


10 Strategic Research Centers > Wyss Academy for Nature
03 Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences > Social Sciences > Institute of Sociology

UniBE Contributor:

Berger, Sebastian, Kellner, Elke


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 360 Social problems & social services








Elke Kellner

Date Deposited:

12 Dec 2022 14:47

Last Modified:

18 Dec 2022 02:06

Publisher DOI:





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