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Since the late 1980s, conservation efforts have focused on biodiversity 'hotspots' — regions that are home to many species at risk of extinction. But some conservationists now believe this approach is misguided.

In this article in Nature, Lucy Odling-Smee reports on increasing evidence that efforts to slow or halt the loss of biodiversity would be more effective if driven by financial interest.

Natural ecosystems provide many economically valuable goods and services such as water, plant ingredients for medicines, and defences against natural disasters. This year's UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment found that most of these services are being quickly degraded.

A new approach could prioritise preserving areas that offer financial benefits. This seems to be the way most scientists are now heading, says Odling-Smee.

But it will not be simple, she cautions. For example, preserving wetlands would benefit the world as a whole but could mean economic disaster for local farmers.

Link to full article in Nature