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Crowdfunding biodiversity conservation

Gallo-Cajiao E, Archibald C, Friedman R, Steven R, Fuller RA, Game ET, Morrison TH & Ritchie EG (2018) Crowdfunding biodiversity conservation. Conservation Biology, 32, 1426-1435.

Raising funds is critical for conserving biodiversity and hence so is scrutinizing emerging financial mechanisms that may help achieve this goal. Anecdotal evidence indicates crowdfunding is being used to support activities needed for biodiversity conservation, yet its magnitude and allocation remain largely unknown. To help address this knowledge gap, we conducted a global analysis based on conservation-focused projects extracted from crowdfunding platforms. For each project, we determined the funds raised, date, country of implementation, proponent characteristics, activity type, biodiversity realm, and target taxa. We identified 72 relevant platforms and 577 conservation-focused projects that raised $4,790,634 since 2009. Although proponents were based in 38 countries, projects were delivered across 80 countries, indicating a potential mechanism of resource mobilization. Proponents were affiliated with nongovernmental organizations (35%) or universities (30%) or were freelancers (26%). Most projects were for research (40%), persuasion (31%), and on-the-ground actions (21%). Projects were more focused on species (57.7%) and terrestrial ecosystems (20.3%), and less focused on marine (8.8%) and freshwater ecosystems (3.6%). Projects focused on 208 species, including a disproportionate number of threatened birds and mammals. Crowdfunding for biodiversity conservation is a global phenomenon and there is potential for expansion, despite possible pitfalls (e.g., uncertainty about effectiveness). Opportunities to advance conservation through crowdfunding arise from its capacity to mobilize funds spatially and increase steadily over time, inclusion of overlooked species, adoption by multiple actors, and funding of activities beyond research. Our findings pave the way for further research on key questions, such as campaign success rates, effectiveness of conservation actions, and drivers of crowdfunding adoption. Even though crowdfunding capital raised has been modest relative to other conservation-finance mechanisms, its contribution goes beyond funding research and providing capital. Embraced with due care, crowdfunding could become an important financial mechanism for biodiversity conservation.

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