The words “preservation” and “conservation” are often used interchangeably, but the two concepts are quite different. Conservation protects the environment through the responsible use of natural resources. Preservation protects the environment from harmful human activities. For example, conserving a forest typically involves sustainable logging practices to minimize deforestation. Preservation would involve setting aside part or even all of the forest from human development.

Why is preservation necessary? In 1800, the world’s population was one billion people. Today it is over seven billion—and it continues to rise. An increase in people means a greater demand for water, food, lumber, and other resources that come from natural environments. Increasing demand can drive people to exploit resources, even in regions well-protected by preservation laws. Dzanga-Ndoki National Park is a protected region in Central Africa. Yet in 2013, poachers entered the region and killed 26 elephants for their tusks.

Successful preservation efforts often rely on shared responsibility between communities, organizations, and governments. In China, preserving the giant panda’s habitat over the last decade has increased the panda population. As a result, in 2016 the panda was removed from the endangered species list and reclassified as “vulnerable,” which is a step in the right direction.

Wetlands are also hotspots for preservation. Wetlands improve water quality and minimize flooding and erosion. The Okavango Delta is the largest freshwater wetland in Africa. In 2015, National Geographic Explorer Steve Boyes launched the Okavango Wilderness Project to preserve a region that provides over 95 percent of the water to this delta.

 

Preservation

Wildlife and land preservation efforts help protect diverse wildlife populations such as this Asian water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) and grey heron (Ardea cinrea) in Yala National Park, Sri Lanka.

Noun

management of a natural resource to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect.

exploit
Verb

to use or take advantage of for profit.

logging
Noun

industry engaged in cutting down trees and moving the wood to sawmills.

lumber
Noun

precisely cut pieces of wood such as boards or planks.

minimize
Verb

to make smaller.

population
Noun

total number of people or organisms in a particular area.

Noun

protection from use.

Noun

area of land covered by shallow water or saturated by water.