As the world's human population has surpassed 7 billion, few places on the globe escape the pervasive impact of our species. Human behavior constitutes the primary threat to the world's biodiversity both directly, via harvesting of living natural resources, and indirectly, as a result of habitat destruction, pollution, the introduction of invasive species, and climate change.
While traditional policy tools, such as regulations, taxes, and subsidies, have been successful in achieving many conservation gains, continued environmental degradation has spurred interest in new "soft policy" approaches based on social and behavioral science that encourage the voluntary adoption of individual behaviors supportive of sustainable resource use. This paper synthesizes foundational knowledge from psychology and behavioral economics, and other applied fields like public health, to develop recommendations for incorporating behavioral change interventions in promotion of the health and wellbeing of natural ecosystems. We identify five "areas of influence" that provide opportunities for promoting pro-environmental behavior: attitudes, agency, emotions, social norms, and environmental or decision context.
We discuss the ways in which these areas of influence might be utilized by conservation practitioners and provide a framework within an adaptive management structure for the implementation and evaluation of behavioral-change interventions targeted at individuals.