Middle English, from Middle French, from Latin conservation-, conservatio, from conservare
- Date: 14th century
- 1 : a careful preservation and protection of something; especially : planned management of a natural resource to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect
- 2 : the preservation of a physical quantity during transformations or reactions
Conservation biology is the scientific study of the nature and status of Earth's biodiversity with the aim of protecting species, their habitats, and ecosystems from excessive rates of extinction. It is an interdisciplinary subject drawing on sciences, economics, and the practice of natural resource management. The term conservation biology was introduced as the title of a conference held at the University of California in La Jolla, California in 1978 organized by biologists Bruce Wilcox and Michael Soulé. The meeting was prompted by the concern among scientists over tropical deforestation, disappearing species, eroding genetic diversity within species. The conference and proceedings that resulted sought to bridge a gap existing at the time between theory in ecology and population biology on the one hand and conservation policy and practice on the other. Conservation biology and the concept of biological diversity (biodiversity) emerged together, helping crystallize the modern era of conservation science and policy.
The rapid decline of established biological systems around the world means that conservation biology is often referred to as a "Discipline with a deadline". Conservation biology is tied closely to ecology in researching the dispersal, migration, demographics, effective population size, inbreeding depression, and minimum population viability of rare or endangered species. Conservation biology is concerned with phenomena that affect the maintenance, loss, and restoration of biodiversity and the science of sustaining evolutionary processes that engender genetic, population, species, and ecosystem diversity. The concern stems from estimates suggesting that up to 50% of all species on the planet will disappear within the next 50 years, which has contributed to poverty, starvation, and will reset the course of evolution on this planet.
Conservation biologists research and educate on the trends and process of biodiversity loss, species extinctions, and the negative affect this is having on our capabilities to sustain the well-being of human society. Conservation biologists work in the field and office, in government, universities, non-profit organizations and industry. They are funded to research, monitor, and catalog every angle of the earth and its relation to society. The topics are diverse, because this is an interdisciplinary network with professional alliances in the biological as well as social sciences. Those dedicated to the cause and profession advocate for a global response to the current biodiversity crisis based on morals, ethics, and scientific reason. Organizations and citizens are responding to the biodiversity crisis through conservation action plans that direct research, monitoring, and education programs that engage concerns at local through global scales.