3 new scientific discoveries you should know about

A humpback whale, pictured above, in Tonga. (© Conservation International/photo by Michael Donoghue)

From following whales around the globe, to checking to ensure that money does make a difference, new scientific discoveries are made every day.

Here, Conservation International scientists prove that donations and funding for environmental projects do work and whales’ pasts can influence the future decisions they make.

  1. Investing in biodiversity is good for the economy

It pays to conserve wildlife, a recent study found.

Every dollar invested in biodiversity conservation nets a return of US$ 7 in other socioeconomic benefits, according to the paper, published in the journal Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability.

At present, the study found, about 0.002 percent of global GDP is invested in the conservation of biodiversity. However, nearly four times that level of investment is required to meet today’s conservation needs, the authors wrote.

The paper’s findings are a clear call to action, said study co-author Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, vice president and senior adviser for global policy at Conservation International.

“Nations need to commit to increasing domestic mobilization of biodiversity finance, because it is in their national self-interest based on the high returns on economic growth and social development.”

The research was financially supported by the European Union, United Kingdom, Swiss, Japanese and Norwegian governments.

Read the paper: Investments to reverse biodiversity loss are economically beneficial

  1. Humpback whales could respond to climate change in different ways

Whales respond differently to environmental stressors — including climate change, new research shows.

According to a study published in Ecological Indicators, scientists found that the life history of the whales they studied may have influenced the whales’ choice between two Antarctic feeding regions. The scientists fitted 25 whales in the South Pacific with satellite tags to track their journeys to their Antarctic feeding grounds.

“This is important for conservation and management planning as whales may be exposed to very different climate change and ecological pressures. This highlights the need for sufficient understanding of how individuals and populations respond to future environmental change,” said Olive Andrews, marine program manager for Asia-Pacific at Conservation International.

The research was done in partnership with University of Auckland, Pew Research Center and Auckland Museum.

Read the paper: Application of a multi-disciplinary approach to reveal population structure and Southern Ocean feeding grounds of humpback whales

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  1. Conservation investments reduce deforestation in Madagascar

Billions of dollars are spent on global conservation efforts to prevent deforestation and degradation.

Turns out: Those investments are making a difference. Scientists studied Madagascar, a country suffering the devastating effects of deforestation, to better understand the impact of dedicated conservation funds on forest loss, according to a paper published in PLOS One.

“Our findings suggest that investments can reduce deforestation and fires, but that there are many challenges and complexities in assessing conservation outcomes,” said Karyn Tabor, director for ecosystem modelling and early warning systems at the Moore Center for Science at Conservation International. She also stressed that this is the first step in understanding the relationship, and more research is needed.

The results indicate that investments over the eight-year time period led to a reduction in fires. In addition, the results showed that investments reduced deforestation during years of political instability and diminished government oversight. With both outcomes, they found that more dollars invested led to greater conservation outcomes, particularly when funding was sustained for one to two years.

This work was funded by the ESPA program (ESCR, NERC, and DFID) as part of the P4GES (Can Paying 4 Global Ecosystem Services reduce poverty?) project grant reference: NE/K010115/1.

Read the paper: Evaluating the effectiveness of conservation and development investments in reducing deforestation and fires in Ankeniheny-Zahemena Corridor, Madagascar

Morgan Lynch is a staff writer for Conservation International.

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