Increasing human pressure threatens plant and animal species with extinction worldwide. National political institutions constitute an important arena for biodiversity conservation. Yet, the relationship between how democratic these national institutions are and a country’s efforts towards and track-record for biodiversity conservation remains poorly understood. In this review, we outline the theoretical links between democracy and biodiversity conservation and review the empirical literature testing them. While more studies reported a positive than a negative relation between democracy and biodiversity conservation (15 vs. 11), the most common result was a mixed relationship (28), often conditioned on economic factors. The use of different proxies to measure biodiversity, including deforestation, protected areas, threatened species, and fishery statistics emerged as a primary obstacle for synthesis. We suggest overcoming this caveat together with a consistent definition of democratic institutions and a standardized statistical framework as research priorities to improve policies against the global biodiversity loss.
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