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Designing Conservation Incentive Programs That Work

Designing Conservation Incentive Programs That Work

The promise of environmental conservation incentive programs that provide direct payments in exchange for conservation outcomes is that they enhance the value of engaging in stewardship behaviors. An insidious but important concern is that a narrow focus on optimizing payment levels can ultimately suppress program participation and subvert participants’ internal motivation to engage in long-term conservation behaviors. Increasing participation and engendering stewardship can be achieved by recognizing that participation is not simply a function of the payment; it is a function of the overall structure and administration of the program. Key to creating innovative and more sustainable programs is fitting them within the existing needs and values of target participants. By focusing on empathy for participants, co-designing program approaches, and learning from the rapid prototyping of program concepts, a human-centered approach to conservation incentive program design enhances the propensity for discovery of novel and innovative solutions to pressing conservation issues. 

Alternative Strategies to Marine Conservation

The continued degradation of marine ecosystems, along with the ecosystem services they provide, suggest that new, innovative approaches are needed to scale up marine biodiversity protection and promote sustainable fishery practices. We synthesize information from Chile on the key processes involved in the development of alternative strategies for scaling up marine biodiversity conservation and discuss the complementarities with marine protected areas. Defined as “ancillary” marine conservation initiatives under the Convention of Biological Diversity, we suggest that these alternative strategies have the potential to capitalize on local stakeholders’ participation and contribute to solving livelihood and governance issues while playing a significant role in scaling up marine conservation. We specifically focus on two recent ancillary initiatives being piloted in Chile. The development of business model innovations which could enable biodiversity benefits from territorial user rights fisheries policies and the creation of municipal conservation areas. We identify how these initiatives could eventually help scale up marine conservation, discuss opportunities and challenges from these pilot experiences and conclude with the need for developing policy frameworks and cross-scale governance approaches which formally acknowledge marine ancillary conservation measures as part of an integrated way to manage marine biodiversity. Exploring and supporting alternative complementary marine conservation strategies is particularly relevant in Chile and Latin America, if biodiversity conservation initiatives are to scale in coverage, contribute to livelihood improvement of local communities, replenish fisheries and play key roles in adaptation to climate change. 

The Science of Rewilding

Trophic rewilding is an ecological restoration strategy that uses species introductions to restore top-down trophic interactions and associated trophic cascades to promote self-regulating biodiverse ecosystems. Given the importance of large animals in trophic cascades and their widespread losses and resulting trophic downgrading, it often focuses on restoring functional megafaunas. Trophic rewilding is increasingly being implemented for conservation, but remains controversial. Here, we provide a synthesis of its current scientific basis, highlighting trophic cascades as the key conceptual framework, discussing the main lessons learned from ongoing rewilding projects, systematically reviewing the current literature, and highlighting unintentional rewilding and spontaneous wildlife comebacks as underused sources of information. Together, these lines of evidence show that trophic cascades may be restored via species reintroductions and ecological replacements. It is clear, however, that megafauna effects may be affected by poorly understood trophic complexity effects and interactions with landscape settings, human activities, and other factors. Unfortunately, empirical research on trophic rewilding is still rare, fragmented, and geographically biased, with the literature dominated by essays and opinion pieces. We highlight the need for applied programs to include hypothesis testing and science-based monitoring, and outline priorities for future research, notably assessing the role of trophic complexity, interplay with landscape settings, land use, and climate change, as well as developing the global scope for rewilding and tools to optimize benefits and reduce human–wildlife conflicts. Finally, we recommend developing a decision framework for species selection, building on functional and phylogenetic information and with attention to the potential contribution from synthetic biology. 

A human-centered approach to invasive species management

A human-centered approach to invasive species management

Targeting human-inhabited islands for invasive species eradication campaigns layers social complexity on top of technical complexity. Attaining widespread support and cooperation for eradications requires programs designed to meet diverse stakeholder needs. The Tierra del Fuego archipelago serves as an informative case study and model for understanding and incorporating private landowner preferences into a proposed eradication program. We employed a human-centered approach to characterize landowner perceptions, preferences, and potential support for a large-scale initiative to eradicate the invasive North American beaver (Castor canadensis) from Tierra del Fuego. We used a factorial vignette survey to understand how attributes of an eradication program are related landowners' decisions to participate. Landowners rated four programs that randomly varied by contract length, required level of landowner involvement, institutional administrator, payment, social norms, and probability of a successful eradication. Landowners in Tierra del Fuego were generally more willing to participate under three conditions: (1) increased payments, (2) increased expectations of program success, and (3) low requirements for landowner involvement. Our results suggest that incorporating feedbacks into program design can increase public support, and that landowners in Tierra del Fuego may not express the same preference for autonomy that exists in other regions of the world. Understanding and incorporating stakeholder preferences, perceptions, and beliefs into management strategies is an ongoing challenge for conservation practitioners worldwide. The vignette survey approach provides a cost-effective, rapid, and scalable tool to document and incorporate local values into conservation program design. Programs built using a human-centered approach will complement landowners’ land-use objectives, increase cooperation, and ultimately improve conservation outcomes. 

Reporting Costs for Conservation Programs

Reporting Costs for Conservation Programs

The eradication of invasive species from islands is a conservation intervention proven to protect biodiversity, with more than 1200 successful vertebrate eradications implemented globally. The demand for eradication projects is increasing and practitioners are planning projects on increasingly larger, more remote and more technically challenging islands. Undertaking strategic planning for conservation requires information on both the cost and benefit of proposed actions, to determine the trade-off in selecting one project over another. To date the cost of eradication projects is disparately reported in the literature, an artefact of different reporting requirements based on where the eradication was undertaken, the scale of the project, the implementing agency and its accountabilities, and inconsistency in reporting all project component costs. Eradication projects have characteristics that allow more refined cost forecasting relative to other conservation initiatives, including a narrow set of major eradication techniques being used, a defined beginning and end point, and distinct project components. Here we present the major cost centres for eradication projects, including a dataset for a suite of rodent, ungulate and predator eradications, using a dataset of 46 eradications primarily from New Zealand, Ecuador and the USA. We found cost increased with island size for all eradication types except ground based rodent eradications. Using these standards to report project costs will improve the ability to evaluate and predict the cost of removing invasive animals from islands to protect native insular biodiversity.

TURFs, innovation and biodiversity benefits

TURFs, innovation and biodiversity benefits

Territorial user rights for fisheries are being promoted to enhance the sustainability of small-scale fisheries. Using Chile as a case study, we designed a market-based program aimed at improving fishers’ livelihoods while incentivizing the establishment and enforcement of no-take areas within areas managed with territorial user right regimes. Building on explicit enabling conditions (i.e., high levels of governance, participation, and empowerment), we used a place-based, human-centered approach to design a program that will have the necessary support and buy-in from local fishers to result in landscape-scale biodiversity benefits. Transactional infrastructure must be complex enough to capture the biodiversity benefits being created, but simple enough so that the program can be scaled up and is attractive to potential financiers. Biodiversity benefits created must be commoditized, and desired behavioral changes must be verified within a transactional context. Demand must be generated for fisher-created biodiversity benefits in order to attract financing and to scale the market model. Important design decisions around these 3 components—supply, transactional infrastructure, and demand—must be made based on local social-ecological conditions. Our market model, which is being piloted in Chile, is a flexible foundation on which to base scalable opportunities to operationalize a scheme that incentivizes local, verifiable biodiversity benefits via conservation behaviors by fishers that could likely result in significant marine conservation gains and novel cross-sector alliances. 

Marine Conservation Assessment in Peru

Marine Conservation Assessment in Peru

We provide an assessment of marine conservation in Peru. We do so by synthesizing the relevant literature and conducting in-country interviews across all relevant sectors. This report is not intended to be an exhaustive review of marine conservation in Peru. Rather, we highlight activities occurring across a diversity of sectors and geographies. Peru’s marine environment is unique and globally important from many perspectives. It supports the anchoveta fishery—the world’s largest fishery. The Humboldt Large Marine ecosystem is one of the world’s most productive ecosystems—both its complexity and biodiversity are staggering. And Peru’s marine environment supports jobs and livelihoods. A recent study estimates that Peru’s fisheries sector alone provides over 200,000 jobs, the majority of which are connected to the artisanal fishing sector. Compared to the Amazon and other terrestrial ecosystems, biodiversity conservation and sustainability in the marine environment is relatively new in Peru. It has received less focus, resources, and attention. This, however, is beginning to change. New marine protected areas are being declared. A new generation of Peruvian scientists, practitioners, and entrepreneurs are turning the efforts toward the sea. And new streams of investment for marine protection and sustainable fisheries are starting to come online. The main goal of this report is to capture some of these developments, as well as provide insights on the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead with respect to improving marine biodiversity protection, management, and sustainability in Peru. 

Maximizing Returns from Environmental Investments

Maximizing Returns from Environmental Investments

Conservation practitioners are increasingly embracing evidence-based and re- turn on investment (ROI) approaches. Much evidence now exists that docu- ments island biodiversity impacts by invasive mammals. The technical ability to eradicate invasive mammals from islands has increased exponentially; con- sequently, strategic planning focused on maximizing the ROI is now a limiting factor for island restoration. We use a regional ROI approach to prioritize erad- ications on islands for seabird conservation in British Columbia, Canada. We do so by integrating economic costs of interventions and applying a resource allocation approach. We estimate the optimal set of islands for eradication un- der two conservation objectives each with a series of increasing thresholds of population sizes and breeding locations. Our approach (1) identified the most cost-effective interventions, (2) determined whether or not those interven- tions were nested with increasing thresholds, and (3) helped justify larger in- vestments when appropriate. More often than not, conservation decisions are made at a regional scale, and decision-makers often must make choices on how to allocate funds across a number of potential conservation actions. A regional, ROI framework can serve as a decision-support tool for organizations engaging in discrete interventions in order to maximize benefits for the minimum cost. 

Supporting biodiversity conservation ventures

Supporting biodiversity conservation ventures

The overwhelming majority of the financial sector has yet to show interest in biodiversity conservation. In great contrast, impact investing for social good is an emerging asset class. Recent estimates forecast the value of potential investment opportunities to provide social services to the base of the economic pyramid at $4 billion to $1 trillion over the next decade. Investments in for- profit ventures that produce biodiversity co-benefits are a small fraction of this growing amount of private capital being mobilized to do “good.” The purpose of this report is twofold. First, we assess the current state of the impact investment sector with respect to its focus on the environment. We do so by assessing environmentally focused investment funds. We review their financial and legal structures, along with the foci of their investments. We also analyze the standards and ratings currently present in the sector, and identify broad levels of risk to those investment funds. Our main purpose is to provide snapshot of the impact investment space as it relates broadly to environmental conservation. 

De-extinction in a crisis discipline

De-extinction in a crisis discipline

De-extinction, the idea of resurrecting extinct species using genetic engineering, has recently caught the attention of both the scientific community and the wider public. A diverse group of scientists and practitioners, led by long-time environmental proponent Stewart Brand, has been busy articulating a framework for de-extinction and exploring a roadmap forward, including identifying the many challenges that lie ahead. De- extinction may mean different things to different people. The Long Now Foundation defines it as using “genetic technology and DNA from museum specimens or fossils to revive species that have gone totally extinct.” Related discussions are also underway around using genetic engineering to assist populations in adapting to climate change and other extinction drivers. De-extinction has sparked a lively debate on biodiversity conservation strategies, one with plenty of detractors who give reasons why it is a bad idea or that it will never deliver on its promise.