19. Effective conservation depends upon understanding human behaviour

  1. David W. Macdonald4 and
  2. Katherine J. Willis5
  1. Freya A.V. St John1,
  2. Aidan M. Keane2 and
  3. Eleanor J. Milner-Gulland3

Published Online: 25 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781118520178.ch19

Key Topics in Conservation Biology 2

Key Topics in Conservation Biology 2

How to Cite

St John, F. A.V., Keane, A. M. and Milner-Gulland, E. J. (2013) Effective conservation depends upon understanding human behaviour, in Key Topics in Conservation Biology 2 (eds D. W. Macdonald and K. J. Willis), John Wiley & Sons, Oxford. doi: 10.1002/9781118520178.ch19

Editor Information

  1. 4

    Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of Zoology, Recanati-Kaplan Centre, Tubney House, University of Oxford, UK

  2. 5

    Biodiversity Institute, Oxford Martin School, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, UK

Author Information

  1. 1

    Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK

  2. 2

    Department of Anthropology, University College London and Institute of Zoology, London, UK

  3. 3

    Department of Life Sciences, Imperial College London, Ascot, UK

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 25 FEB 2013
  2. Published Print: 15 APR 2013

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780470658765

Online ISBN: 9781118520178



  • biodiversity;
  • conservation interventions;
  • decision making;
  • environmental behaviour;
  • human behaviour;
  • social science


This chapter focuses on the small-scale behaviour of individuals and households in poor rural areas of the developing world because much conservation activity is focused in these biodiversity-rich places which are under threat. It first provides an overview of the most important and relevant theories of human decision making, and how they relate to environmental behaviour. It then shows how this theory can be applied in conservation interventions, both in general and through the use of particular social science research tools. The chapter concludes by suggesting what is needed to facilitate proactive, dynamic conservation in the future that takes account of the adaptive powers that people have to change their behaviour as circumstances change.