In-situ and Ex-situ Conservation

There are two broad categories that most conservation efforts can be placed under and it’s a good thing to know a bit about both of them. I thought I would share some basic definitions and a few examples of each.

In-situ Conservation

In-situ conservation is conservation work done inside the natural area. Some examples:

  • Habitat protection
  • Controlling invasive species

Ex-situ Conservation

Ex-situ conservation is conservation work done outside of the natural area. Some examples:

  • Breeding programs in zoos or the propagation of plants in botanical gardens
  • Education of the public

Is One Type Better Than the Other?

This is debatable, as the combination of both is probably ideal. However, in general in-situ conservation tends to be thought of as more effective and more important. This is because in order to release animals or to put plants back into their natural environment (from an ex-situ situation), that environment often needs to be protected first (via in-situ conservation), otherwise the populations for re-introduction may be easily predated upon (if introduced species are a major problem, as they are in Australia, many animals bred in captivity are released into reserves and fenced areas to minimise loss after relocation), or even have limited natural range to go if their habitat has been severely cleared.

I do agree that in-situ conservation, in general, can be more important. Although, because some breeding/propagation programs are needed for certain species and education is largely beneficial, I believe that both in-situ and ex-situ methods have their place in effective conservation.


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