While the two terms are often used interchangeably, http://dictionary.reference.com/ defines preservation as “to keep up; maintain.” Conservation, on the other hand, is defined as “prevention of injury, decay, waste, or loss.” So it seems that, if anything, the difference between conservation and preservation is that conservation may be considered preventative, whereas preservation is more focused on maintenance. The word “preserve” comes from the Late Latin “to observe,” while “conserve” comes from the Latin “to serve.” However, both words derive from a Middle English word that means “to guard.”
In this article, conservation is described as pertaining to conserving natural resources. Preservation is described as maintaining an environment the way it is. The way I think about it is through food: if you’re conserving food, you’re eating and consuming less of it because the food won’t last forever; if you’re preserving food, you’re salting it or putting it in a container so you can keep it at it’s present state for a longer period of time.
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