A global mitigation hierarchy for nature conservation
Efforts to conserve biodiversity comprise a patchwork of international goals, national-level plans, and local interventions that, overall, are failing. We discuss the potential utility of applying the mitigation hierarchy, widely used during economic development activities, to all negative human impacts on biodiversity. Evaluating all biodiversity losses and gains through the mitigation hierarchy could help prioritize consideration of conservation goals and drive the empirical evaluation of conservation investments through the explicit consideration of counterfactual trends and ecosystem dynamics across scales. We explore the challenges in using this framework to achieve global conservation goals, including operationalization and monitoring and compliance, and we discuss solutions and research priorities. The mitigation hierarchy's conceptual power and ability to clarify thinking could provide the step change needed to integrate the multiple elements of conservation goals and interventions in order to achieve successful biodiversity outcomes.