Prioritizing conservation investments for mammal species globally. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 366:2670-2680. doi:10.1098/rstb.2011.0108
We need to set priorities for conservation because we cannot do everything, everywhere, at the same time. We determined priority areas for investment in threat abatement actions, in both a cost-effective and spatially and temporally explicit way, for the threatened mammals of the world. Our analysis presents the first fine-resolution prioritization analysis for mammals at a global scale that accounts for the risk of habitat loss, the actions required to abate this risk, the costs of these actions and the likelihood of investment success. We evaluated the likelihood of success of investments using information on the past frequency and duration of legislative effectiveness at a country scale. The establishment of new protected areas was the action receiving the greatest investment, while restoration was never chosen. The resolution of the analysis and the incorporation of likelihood of success made little difference to this result, but affected the spatial location of these investments.
What to do in the face of multiple threats? Incorporating dependencies within a return on investment framework for conservation. Diversity and Distributions 17:437-450. doi.10.1111/j.1472-4642.2011.00747.x
Aim Our study aimed to determine priority areas for conservation investment with explicit consideration of the impacts of multiple threatening processes, and the dependencies that exist between actions required to abate these threats.
Methods We analysed the return on investment for two different management actions aimed at reducing the impact of invasive species on the native fauna and flora of Australia. We focussed on the management of the European red fox (Vulpes vulpes) and European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) at two spatial scales: across 72 biogeographic regions of Australia and within one high-priority biogeographic region. We considered each action independently and also explicitly accounted for the option of an integrated fox and rabbit management action. We accounted for the spatial distributions of the threatened species within our analysis and determined how this refined spatial information influenced both the priority areas and the timing of this investment.
Results Integrated fox and rabbit management was identified as a higher priority th
an singular threat abatement in most bioregions, whereas rabbit control alone was the most frequent priority if dependencies between actions were ignored. At the regional scale, funding was entirely directed to integrated action when seven or more species within the priority region were impacted by more than one threat. The total allocation of funding and timing of initial investment remained relatively insensitive to differences in the spatial overlap of species distributions.
Main conclusions Our findings indicate that prioritizing conservation actions without explicit consideration of the impacts of multiple threats can reduce the cost-effectiveness of investments. The benefits expected from investment in abating one threat alone may be overestimated where other processes continue to threaten species persistence. We conclude that future attention should be directed to refining our understanding of the cost-efficiencies delivered through integrated actions and institutional mechanisms to achieve their delivery.
Figure 2. Investment into conservation actions at a continental scale for all 72 bioregions, according to our four ROI frameworks: (a) Two-action-independent ROI, (b) three-action-independent ROI, (c) action-dependent ROI and (d) action-dependent ROI with spatial targeting. The map shows the priority bioregions for investment as indicated by the total percentage of funding for a bioregion summed over all actions, which is shown as low (up to 1%), medium (up to 2%) or high (up to 6%).
Aldo Leopold famously described the curse of an ecological education as “to be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise”.
Ecologists do have a tendency formaking dire warnings for the future, but for anyone concerned about the myriad of problems currently facing the Earth — climate change, an ongoing wave of species extinctions and impending peak oil, phosphate, water , (everything?) crises – the continued ignorance or ridicule of such warnings can be a frustrating experience. Environmental degradation and ecological overshoot isn’t just about losing cute plants and animals, giventhe widespread acceptance that long term human wellbeing ultimately rests on the ability for the Earth to supply us with ecosystem services.
In light of this doom and gloom, things were shaken up a bit late last year when an article1 published in Biosciencepointed out that in spite of declines in the majority of ecosystem services considered essential to human wellbeing by The Millenium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), aggregate human wellbeing (as measured by the Human Development Index) has risen continuously over the last 50 years. Ciara Raudsepp-Hearne and the co-authors of the study suggested that these conflicting trends presented an ‘environmentalist’s paradox’ of sorts – do we really depend on nature to the extent that ecologists have led everyone to believe?