Difference Between In Situ and Ex Situ Conservation

Both these conservation methods include the protection of both endangered plants and animals. In situ conservation protects biodiversity onsite, while ex-situ conservation delineates methods of offsite biodiversity conservation.


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This seminal difference in the meaning of the two concepts makes other dissimilarities more prominent and noteworthy.

Key Takeaways

  1. In-situ conservation involves protecting endangered species in their natural habitats, while ex-situ conservation involves removing individuals from their habitats for protection in captivity.
  2. In-situ conservation helps maintain the ecological balance of natural ecosystems. It is often more cost-effective, while ex-situ conservation is useful for species that cannot survive in the wild.
  3. In-situ conservation relies on the cooperation of local communities, while ex-situ conservation requires significant financial and technical resources.

In Situ vs. Ex Situ Conservation

In Situ, conservation refers to the safeguarding or caretaking of species living inside their natural habitat. Ex situ conservation protects species living outside their natural habitat and environment. This type of conservation is good for species that are becoming extinct.

In situ vs Ex situ conservation

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Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonIn Situ ConservationEx Situ Conservation
DefinitionConservation of biodiversity within their natural environment.Conservation of biodiversity outside their natural habitats.
Environment CreatedThe natural environment of all the species is protected and preserved.An artificial environment is created to mimic the original habitat of the endangered species.
Type of ConservationOnsite conservation.Offsite conservation.
Mobility of SpeciesMobility of all species is maintained.The mobility of the species is restricted.
Character of EnvironmentA dynamic environment is maintained by allowing species to adapt, evolve, and multiply at their own pace.A static environment is created where the species’ adaptability is controlled, and restricted breeding is encouraged to enhance their dwindling numbers.
SuitabilityIn situ, conservation is more suited for species that are available in abundance.Ex-situ conservation is more suited for species with dwindling numbers that are edging toward extinction.
ExamplesNational parks, biosphere reserves, and sanctuaries.Zoological parks, botanical gardens, seed banks, and aquariums.

What is In Situ Conservation?

In situ conservation is a special method of conserving wildlife species in their natural habitats. The essence of the in situ conservation techniques is hidden in their stress on onsite biodiversity protection.

This insistence stems from the belief that biodiversity flourishes while growing amid its natural home, where each endangered species can adapt and evolve with the changing environment.

In situ, conservationists believe in preserving, monitoring, and managing the natural areas home to endangered species. Only by preserving their home can we hope to save them.

The creation of national parks, biosphere reserves, and sanctuaries serve as ways of protecting species and ensuring their dynamic, natural growth.

situ conservation

What is Ex Situ Conservation?

Ex situ conservation proposes the protection of species outside their natural habitats. Under this form of conservation, artificial habitats that mimic the natural environments of endangered species are created.

This protects endangered and almost extinct species by restricting their mobility and reducing the threat of potential predators.

Ex-situ conservation methods also encourage captive breeding to boost the member counts of species and prevent extinction. In certain cases, ex-situ conservation is the only plausible means of protecting biodiversity.

Especially now that humans have destroyed the natural habitat of most species, ex-situ conservation may be the only prudent way forward. Units of ex-situ conservation include zoological parks, botanical gardens, and seed banks.

ex situ conservation

Main Differences Between In-Situ and Ex-Situ Conservation

  1. The main difference between in-situ and ex-situ conservation is in terms of the definition and meaning of each term. While the former stands for conserving endangered species of plants and animals within their natural habitats, the latter refers to conserving biodiversity offsite, i.e., outside their natural habitats.
  2. The second seminal difference between the two is the kind of environment and habitats created by each. While in situ conservation creates national parks and sanctuaries to protect wildlife in their natural environment, ex-situ conservation uses artificially created environments that resemble the natural living space of species.
  3. Greater mobility of wildlife species is guaranteed under in situ conservation, while ex-situ conservation limits species mobility due to its limited space.
  4. All species can adapt and multiply in the in situ conservatory methodology. Under ex-situ conservation, captive breeding helps boost some species’ numbers. However, natural adaptability is absent in the latter.
  5. In situ, conservation may be better suited for flora and fauna species that are abundant in numbers. When the member count of any of these species dwindles towards extinction, ex-situ methods may be better suited to protect the remaining members effectively.
  6. The in situ conservation techniques create a dynamic environment with constantly interacting ecological systems. The environment artificially created by ex-situ conservation is comparatively static as the interaction of multiple ecological factors does not produce it. It is simply a simulation of the real habitat of these endangered species.
  7. Some well-known in situ conservation units are biosphere reserves, national parks, and sanctuaries. While ex situ conservational units include zoological parks, aquariums, and botanical gardens.
Difference Between In Situ and Ex Situ Conservation
  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0016718513002200
  2. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41477-017-0019-3/
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