Financial Costs of Meeting Global Biodiversity Conservation Targets: Current Spending and Unmet Needs

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Science  16 Nov 2012:
Vol. 338, Issue 6109, pp. 946-949
DOI: 10.1126/science.1229803

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Costs of Conservation

In 2010, world governments agreed to a strategic plan for biodiversity conservation, including 20 targets to be met by 2020, through the Convention on Biological Diversity. Discussions on financing the plan have still not been resolved, partly because there is little information on the likely costs of meeting the targets. McCarthy et al. (p. 946, published online 11 October) estimate the financial costs for two of the targets relating to protected areas and preventing extinctions. Using data from birds, they develop models that can be extrapolated to the costs for biodiversity more broadly. Reducing extinction risk for all species is estimated to require in the region of U.S. $4 billion annually, while the projected costs of establishing and maintaining protected areas may be as much as U.S. $58 billion—although both sums are small, relative to the economic costs of ecosystem losses.


World governments have committed to halting human-induced extinctions and safeguarding important sites for biodiversity by 2020, but the financial costs of meeting these targets are largely unknown. We estimate the cost of reducing the extinction risk of all globally threatened bird species (by ≥1 International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List category) to be U.S. $0.875 to $1.23 billion annually over the next decade, of which 12% is currently funded. Incorporating threatened nonavian species increases this total to U.S. $3.41 to $4.76 billion annually. We estimate that protecting and effectively managing all terrestrial sites of global avian conservation significance (11,731 Important Bird Areas) would cost U.S. $65.1 billion annually. Adding sites for other taxa increases this to U.S. $76.1 billion annually. Meeting these targets will require conservation funding to increase by at least an order of magnitude.

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