Confronting and Resolving Competing Values Behind Conservation Objectives

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (August 17, 2015, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1504788112
PNAS September 1, 2015 vol. 112 no. 35 11132-11137) / by Daniel S. Karp, et al.
http://www.pnas.org/content/112/35/11132.short

Diverse motivations for preserving nature both inspire and hinder its conservation. Optimal conservation strategies may differ radically depending on the objective. For example, creating nature reserves may prevent extinctions through protecting severely threatened species, whereas incentivizing farmland hedgerows may benefit people through bolstering pest-eating or pollinating species. Win-win interventions that satisfy multiple objectives are alluring, but can also be elusive. To achieve better outcomes, we developed and implemented a practical typology of nature conservation framed around seven common conservation objectives. Using an intensively studied bird assemblage in southern Costa Rica as a case study, we applied the typology in the context of biodiversity’s most pervasive threat: habitat conversion. We found that rural habitats in a varied tropical landscape, comprising small farms, villages, forest fragments, and forest reserves, provided biodiversity-driven processes that benefit people, such as pollination, seed dispersal, and pest consumption. However, species valued for their rarity, endemism, and evolutionary distinctness declined in farmland. Conserving tropical forest on farmland increased species that international tourists value, but not species discussed in Costa Rican newspapers. Despite these observed trade-offs, our analyses also revealed promising synergies. For example, we found that maintaining forest cover surrounding farms in our study region would likely enhance most conservation objectives at minimal expense to others. Overall, our typology provides a framework for resolving the competing objectives of modern conservation.

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