Cost-Effective Conservation Areas
Habitat conservation efforts around the world fall into two broad categories: 1) preservation of habitats that have not yet been damaged or destroyed, and 2) restoration of damaged habitats to bring them back to optimal levels. Because so much of the world's habitats are already damaged, restoration projects have become crucial. For restoration projects to be successful, however, plans must take into account ecological knowledge and economic and social constraints. This task is complicated and expensive. And as with all conservation work, available funding is usually limited. Therefore, the authors of the current study suggest that those involved in these efforts must carefully plan the most cost-effective projects to maximize impact.
The study of cost-effective conservation is being aided by planning software such as Marxan, which helps conservationists "to establish priority areas for restoration on the basis of ecosystem service potential." Ecosystem service potential refers to the idea that ecosystems can provide services to society, including the provision of natural resources such as timber and fish, regulating services like erosion control and water purification, and cultural services including recreation and aesthetic.
The current case study was performed on a degraded mangrove forest in the Mexican Caribbean. Mangroves, one of the most valuable but threatened ecosystems in the world, can improve water quality, stabilize and protect shorelines, and help provide crucial habitat for animals. Using a variety of estimations for the value of ecosystem services, the study authors were able to find and select "cost-effective areas for restoration of vegetation" and, at low-cost, deliver "the highest level of ecosystem services while protecting biodiversity." What's more, their method functions with "relatively simple data" from the field and provides "confidence in results, the potential for community involvement in assessments, and avoidance of the uncertainty associated with inaccurate databases or predicted data."
For conservation advocates, the results may be controversial. Surely, thinking of the environment and conservation priorities in terms of "efficiency" may feel strange, but efficiency and effectiveness often go hand in hand. As long as conservation resources are limited, making choices based on efficiency will be crucial, and tools like Marxan can help conservationists make difficult choices.
February 6, 2017 - by Faunalytics
Adame, M. F., Hermoso, V., Perhans, K., Lovelock, C. E., & Herrera-Silveira, J. A. (2015). Selecting cost-effective areas for restoration of ecosystem services. Conservation Biology, 29(2), 493-502.