Funders for Effective Conservation

delivering nature efficiently


Patrons: Cartier Fund for Nature, A.G. Leventis, Lord and Lady Moran and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

Join a coalition of forward-thinking funders investing in Conservation Evidence to empower impactful, cost-effective conservation at the scale needed to tackle today’s challenges.

“Transformational changes are vital in tackling the nature-climate crisis.  We cannot afford to act on hearsay, best guesswork or opinion. Conservation Evidence provides an unrivalled signpost to what works and doesn’t work, and looking ahead we need to invest in what the evidence tells us will make a real difference.”

Professor Des Thompson, Principal Adviser, NatureScot – Scotland’s Nature Agency 

The problem

The urgent need for transformational conservation action is clear and well-understood. However, conservation today is not as effective as it could, and indeed must be. Many efforts, while well-intentioned and funded, fail to deliver the desired conservation outcomes, or only do so at much higher cost than necessary. For example, 29% of Marine Protected Areas are not positively influencing fish populations – and even where they are, positive outcomes may only be achieved after long periods of trial and error; often of actions others have already applied and improved elsewhere.

Surveys of over 30 experienced conservation practitioners working in the UK and internationally have consistently shown that they believe they could deliver the same outcome for at least 30% and usually over 50% less cost ‘if summaries of the published literature, reports and the lessons of your and other organisations on what had worked, and what had not, were available’. Thus, both published experiments and the experience of practitioners suggest that transformative changes in effectiveness are possible.

With the new UN Biodiversity Framework in place, funding by conservation bodies, businesses and governments is likely to increase and hopefully close the gap between need and availability. Furthermore, huge investments are being made in carbon and biodiversity credits, with the financial return contingent on the effectiveness. These measures could be transformatory, but they need to be effective to deliver on their potential.

The solution

Making evidence available

Where evidence is firmly embedded into processes, outcomes are often transformed for the better. Evidence-based medicine has reduced deaths by a fifth, and hospital stays by almost a third. Evidence-based aviation safety practices have led to a 5-10 fold reduction in annual fatalities. Conservation can be transformed in a similar way by learning from others and not repeating mistakes. This requires practitioners having appropriate access to collated knowledge. 

Making evidence easily and publicly available is the heart of the Conservation Evidence project, which was established in 2004 and has become the most comprehensive, authoritative, freely available platform for evidence-led conservation worldwide. It is transforming the way in which conservationists access and use evidence for improving the state of our planet.

Embedding evidence in decision making

Providing the evidence is fundamental but not sufficient to transform practice. The Conservation Evidence team has established multiple groups of practitioners, policy makers, funders and researchers to determine means of improving practice. The resulting toolkit is summarised in the open access book Transforming Conservation: a practical guide to evidence and decision and a paper.

Our achievements so far

- Scanning >1.6 million papers from 657 journals in 17 languages for tests of actions

- Reviewing the effectiveness of 3,689 management actions

- Engaging with >1 million users from 233 countries and UKOTs, with ~23% return rate

- Reaching over 85,000 readers of What Works in Conservation

- Working with over 1,100 named global collaborators and 39 Evidence Champions

- Publishing a toolkit: Transforming Conservation: a practical guide to evidence and decision making

- Linking major environmental databases to ours, e.g. IUCN RedList, NBN Atlas

Here is a short film about our work featuring Sir David Attenborough.

Key needs

Collation of evidence database: Completing collation of the evidence base, including for grasslands, invertebrates, freshwater fish, which will be faster with automation (we are collaborating to develop this). 

Maintenance of evidence database: Keeping the evidence up to date, again with automation support. 

Mainstreaming evidence use: Continuing to collaborate widely with international practitioners, researchers, policy makers and funders to promote existing and develop additional tools and processes to facilitate the use of evidence.

Goal: Creating cultural change so it becomes unthinkable not to consider evidence when planning conservation projects.

How can you help deliver this change?

The conservation community increasingly appreciates that working based on evidence is fundamental to positive outcomes and could result in saving billions of dollars. Funders for Effective Conservation offers you the opportunity to join a group of pioneering funders who are making an investment in improved conservation practice by building on the lessons of successes and failures in the sector. 

As part of this coalition of ‘Patrons’, you will empower the expert team at Conservation Evidence to deliver on this promise. Based at the University of Cambridge, UK, our team is embedded in one of the most transformative environments provided by Cambridge Conservation Initiative. The core operational budget for this team is around £500,000/year, with additional costs to support evidence collation for specific subjects.

Four Patrons, Cartier for Nature, A.G. Leventis, Lord and Lady Moran and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, are already supporting this valuable work (providing £70,000-100,000 per year for 2-3 years, one has agreed to and one is considering continuing for longer). We are seeking additional funders who also understand the importance of evidence use for more effective conservation to help support this work, and in turn benefit by improving their cost effectiveness. We typically request grants and gifts in the order of an annual commitment of upwards of £70,000 to become a ‘Patron’.

Your support at this critical stage will not only develop and maintain a neutral, transparent, free-to-access tool to inform and support effective global conservation efforts, but also additional tools and processes and facilitation of the cultural change required to embed this in practice. Billions of dollars spent on conservation efforts could be better tailored and used more effectively, and results of practice fed back into the process continually improving the evidence-base and future practice for the benefit of nature and society.

“I cannot see how funders would not be interested in the provision of existing evidence to embed into practice”.

Dr Anastasios (Tasso) Leventis, Chairman A. G. Leventis Foundation.




What Works 2021 cover

What Works in Conservation

What Works in Conservation provides expert assessments of the effectiveness of actions, based on summarised evidence, in synopses. Subjects covered so far include amphibians, birds, mammals, forests, peatland and control of freshwater invasive species. More are in progress.

More about What Works in Conservation

Download free PDF or purchase
The Conservation Evidence Journal

The Conservation Evidence Journal

An online, free to publish in, open-access journal publishing results from research and projects that test the effectiveness of conservation actions.

Read the latest volume: Volume 21

Go to the CE Journal

Discover more on our blog

Our blog contains the latest news and updates from the Conservation Evidence team, the Conservation Evidence Journal, and our global partners in evidence-based conservation.

Who uses Conservation Evidence?

Meet some of the evidence champions

Endangered Landscape ProgrammeRed List Champion - Arc Kent Wildlife Trust The Rufford Foundation Save the Frogs - Ghana Mauritian Wildlife Supporting Conservation Leaders
Sustainability Dashboard National Biodiversity Network Frog Life The international journey of Conservation - Oryx Cool Farm Alliance UNEP AWFA Bat Conservation InternationalPeople trust for endangered species Vincet Wildlife Trust