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What is the difference between conservation and preservation

what is the difference between conservation and preservation?

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The terms ‘conservation’ and ‘preservation’ can be often used interchangeably, however in reality they have very different meanings. Preservation may be defined as ‘the protection of resources, whether they are land, species, specific genotypes, landscapes or some other factor’ (Sparling, 2014:4). The view that natural resources must not be consumed by humans and should be maintained in their pristine condition is usually supported by preservationists. Preservation involves a strict observation of minimal disturbance to land, species and natural resources, and it is approached with only minimal management.

‘Conservation’ on the other hand, is not as strict in its approach to natural resources as ‘preservation’. Conservation involves the use of, and interaction with the environment in a sustainable manner. Natural resources should be used and managed in a responsible way that meets the needs of today without compromising the resource supply for the needs of future generations (Brundtland Report, 1987).

One issue with preservation of ecosystems, for instance, could be that natural areas are not dormant and inactive. What this means is that the natural development of an area could be advanced by succession, and that events (such as fire) could also interfere with succession and change the natural state of the area. Thus, it could be said that in such situations conservation with an active management approach will almost always be necessary. This is an example of when preservation and conservation could intercept.


Sparling, D., 2014. Natural Resource Administration: Wildlife, Fisheries, Forests and Parks. Academic Press: Academic Press.

United Nations, 1987. Our Common Future - Brundtland Report. Oxford: Oxford University Press