Conserving biodiversity is a costly ‘business’

Coral reefs threatened by destructive fishing Copyright: Willis Greiner

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Biodiversity is at its richest in developing countries. Enforcing conservation practises is difficult because for local people, surviving in the short-term by exploiting their resources is more pressing than protecting them for future generations. For example, Kenya’s national parks and reserves would be worth about US$270 million per year if it were developed.

In this feature, Henry Nicholls suggests that if locals are expected to conserve their environment, developed countries will need to provide sufficient recompense. Indirect approaches — such as community-based ecotourism — are not enough of an incentive, argues the author. Direct payments to local people, to prevent them fishing or hunting endangered species, could be far more effective in preventing environmental degradation.

However, critics of direct payments believe that they lend conservation a mercenary edge. Instead, they say, locals should be educated and made aware of biodiversity issues as a long-term conservation strategy.

Link to full article in PLoS Biology

SciDev.Net debate: Biodiversity and development: are they compatible?