Difference Between In Situ and Ex Situ Conservation (With Table)

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

In Situ vs Ex Situ Conservation

The difference between in situ and ex situ conservation is that In-situ conservation connotes the act of conserving wildlife species in their natural habitats of growth. On the other hand, ex situ conservation refers to the efforts of safeguarding wildlife species outside their natural habitats and environments.

Comparison Table Between In Situ and Ex Situ Conservation

Parameters of ComparisonIn Situ Conservation  Ex 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.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 adaptability of the species 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 towards 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 own natural habitats. The essence of the in situ conservation techniques is hidden in their stress on the onsite protection of biodiversity.

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

In situ conservationists believe in the preservation, monitoring, and management of the natural areas that are home to endangered species. It is only by preserving their home that we can hope to save them. The creation of national parks, biosphere reserves, and sanctuaries serve as ways of protecting species as well as ensuring their dynamic, natural growth.

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 enables the protection of 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 undertaking protection of 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.

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 the ways of conserving endangered species of plants and animals within their natural habitats, the latter refers to the ways of 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 are allowed to adapt and multiple in the in situ conservatory methodology. Under ex situ conservation, captive breeding helps boosts the numbers of some species. 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 effectively protect the remaining members.
  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 it is not produced by the interaction of multiple ecological factors. 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.


In situ and ex situ conservation are both methods of conserving endangered flora and fauna. Each of these methodologies has its own set of benefits and pitfalls. They are significantly different from each other in terms of their proposed methods of protecting biodiversity.

In situ conservation advocates for onsite conservation and protection of wildlife species as this helps them grow and adapt to their natural habitat. As opposed to this proposed methodology of conservation, ex situ conservation relates to the protection of biodiversity offsite, in a walled protected environment. This environment is artificially constructed to emulate the key features of the natural habitat of these endangered species.

While national parks, sanctuaries, and biosphere reserves conserve biodiversity within their natural habitats, ex situ units like seed banks, zoological parks, and botanical parks protect plant and animal species in a closed-off, walled environment.

Ex situ conservation may be better suited for species that are edging towards extinction as it reduces their mobility and also the potential threats to their lives in the natural world. In situ conservation may be better suited for species that are in abundance as it allows them to grow and multiply by enhancing their adaptability and supporting evolution.


  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0016718513002200
  2. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41477-017-0019-3/