Ecology

Conservation Calculation

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Science  28 Sep 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6102, pp. 1584
DOI: 10.1126/science.337.6102.1584-a
CREDIT: MAGNUS KJAERGAARD/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Conservation of biodiversity costs money. Not only do the long-term preservation and/or restoration of habitats require investment, the acquisition of lands may be required too. Priority areas for conservation tend to be designated on the basis of their biodiversity value (e.g., the range of species present or the degree to which species and habitats are threatened) or their ecosystem services value (e.g., forest cover or water quality), but the economic costs and the return on investment (ROI) in terms of wider conservation goals are often given less attention. To address this gap, Withey et al. developed an economic model aimed at maximizing the ROI on the cost of the acquisition of lands for conservation, using vertebrates in the United States as the target of their analysis (though it could be applied to other organisms and regions too). Their model, which addresses the contribution that local land acquisition can make to vertebrate conservation at the wider regional scale, takes into account factors such as land costs, threats of land conversion for development, species richness, and the proportion of species ranges that are already protected elsewhere. Although local initiatives remain fundamentally important to conservation efforts, this approach can improve on the effectiveness of conservation that is based solely on local species richness or cost.

Ecol. Lett. 15, 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2012.01847.x (2012).

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