Biodiversity offsets are becoming increasingly common across a portfolio of settings: national policy, voluntary programs, international lending, and corporate business structures. Given the diversity of ecological, political, and socio-economic systems where offsets may be applied, place-based information is likely to be most useful in designing and implementing offset programs, along with guiding principles that assure best practice. We reviewed the research on biodiversity offsets to explore gaps and needs. While the peer-reviewed literature on offsets is growing rapidly, it is heavily dominated by ecological theory, wetland ecosystems, and U.S.-based research. Given that majority of offset policies and programs are occurring in middle- and low-income countries, the research gaps we identified present a number of risks. They also present an opportunity to create regionally based learning platforms focused on pilot projects and institutional capacity building. Scientific research should diversify, both topically and geographically, in order to support the successful design, implementation, and monitoring of biodiversity offset programs.
Territorial use rights in fisheries (TURFs) are becoming a widely promoted tool to enhance the sustainability of small-scale fisheries. In 1991, Chile established a national coastal TURF policy that gave legal authority to assign exclusive access rights to artisanal fisher organizations. In 2014, there were several hundred TURFs decreed to fisher organizations in different biophysical and socioeconomic settings. To date, research assessing TURF implementation has generally been based on a few case studies and have had mixed results. Here, we present results from a survey of 535 fishers from 55 different artisanal fisher organizations. e survey consisted of three open-ended questions that explore users’ perceptions of the main problems, benefits, and improvements concerning assigned TURFs. Main key problems, as perceived by fishers, include increased costs associated with surveillance and poaching, and the variability and sometimes lack of financial returns. Despite strong price drops in exported species, TURFs have provided incentives for innovation and stewardship, and fishers are generally unwilling to relinquish them...
Ants are one of the most cosmopolitan invasive taxa: dozens of species have invaded islands and continental areas around the globe. Invasive ants continue to colonize new ecosystems having direct and indirect negative impacts on natural and managed ecosystems. Thus, in many cases, eradication is often a desirable management action. While invasive ant eradications have increased over the past 15 years, the success rate of ant eradications is low compared to other invasive species. With colleagues from CISRO Australia and University College of London, ACS reviewed ant eradications worldwide in order to assess the practice and identify knowledge gaps and challenges.
Panama Bay is one of the most important wintering and stopover areas for shorebirds in the western hemisphere. In 2015, Advanced Conservation Strategies conducted a Conservation Landscape Assessment of Panama Bay for the David & Lucile Packard Foundation. A research team, including natural scientists, social scientists, architects, and land use planners, conducted primary and secondary research, including stakeholder interviews across all sectors in Panama City. The goal was to assess the state of shorebird habitat protection in Panama Bay and how it fits into the larger landscape and dynamics surrounding the Panama City metropolitan area. Advanced Conservation Strategies also provided a series of broad, forward-looking recommendations to improve wetland and shorebird protection.
Balancing development and biodiversity conservation presents significant challenges. One approach, biodiversity offsetting, represents “measurable conservation outcomes resulting from actions designed to compensate for significant residual adverse biodiversity impacts resulting from project development” and is a final step in a mitigation hierarchy following steps of avoidance, minimization, rehabilitation, and restoration. In the journal Conservation Biology, Josh Donlan and colleagues at Island Conservation recently presented an argument for the potential for biodiversity offsetting to fund invasive species eradications on islands. Islands have disproportionately higher levels of biodiversity, threatened species, and extinctions than mainlands.
Judging by the pages of recent journals and books, one could easily believe biodiversity conservation is experiencing a crisis. New phrases and metaphors abound, making for great headlines. Protecting the Wild is one of two new volumes that are entirely motivated by this supposed fracture in conservation. From a quick look at these books, one would think that there are thousands of scientists and conservationists in the streets, calling for the end of protected areas. Of course, this is far from reality. Even the volume's archenemy, Peter Kareiva, is not explicitly opposed to parks; rather, his focus just happens to be on all the stuff outside of parks and wilderness: “Conservation will likely continue to create parks and wilderness areas, but that will be just one of the field's larger goals. The bigger questions… regard what will we do with the rest of it.” Arguments for silver bullets, however, make better copy than cost–benefit analyses do.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
Even the most conservative estimates predict that 15–40% of living species will be effectively extinct by 2050 as a result of climate change, habitat loss and other consequences of human activities. In the face of such drastic losses, scientists are debat- ing the pros and cons of various, and often controversial, interventions. These include moving populations to help track hospitable habitats, and reinstating keystone species — those that have a large effect on ecosystem structure and function, such as top-level predators — into areas where they have long been absent. Even the revival of species that have recently gone extinct is being explored. So far, an increasingly viable (and potentially less risky) option, which we call facilitated adaptation, has been little dis- cussed. It would involve rescuing a target population or species by endowing it with adaptive alleles, or gene variants, using genetic engineering.
While the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) has been a success, it is not without challenges. The ESA serves as a backstop that triggers regulation to prevent species extinctions; however, it has been less effective at recovering species and preventing them from becoming listed altogether. Without incentives for species management and environmental stewardship upstream of regulation, the ESA is often characterized as a reactive framework that sometimes leads to perverse incentives, such as pre-emptive destruction of habitat to avoid ESA regulations, and frequent legal battles. Given the multi- dimensional challenges with species recovery, programs focused on conserving species before they require ESA- listing have the potential to provide a suite of conservation and economic benefits, including aligning the interests of project developers, private landowners, conservation advocates and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Engaging private landowners in conservation activities for imperiled species is critical to maintaining and enhancing biodiversity. Market-based approaches can incentivize conservation behaviors on private lands by shifting the benefit–cost ratio of engaging in activities that result in net conservation benefits for target species. In the United States and elsewhere, voluntary conservation agreements with financial incentives are becoming an increasingly common strategy. While the influence of program design and delivery of voluntary conservation programs is often overlooked, these aspects are critical to achieving the necessary participation to attain landscape-scale outcomes. Using a sample of family- forest landowners in the southeast United States, we show how preferences for participation in a conservation program to protect an at-risk species, the gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus), are related to program structure, delivery, and perceived efficacy. Landowners were most sensitive to programs that are highly controlling, require permanent conservation easements, and put landowners at risk for future regulation. Programs designed with greater levels of compensation and that support landowners’ autonomy to make land management decisions can increase participation and increase landowner acceptance of program components that are generally unfavorable, like long-term contracts and permanent easements. There is an inherent trade-off between maximizing participation and maximizing the conservation benefits when designing a conservation incentive program. For conservation programs targeting private lands to achieve landscape-level benefits, they must attract a critical level of participation that creates a connected mosaic of conservation benefits. Yet, programs with attributes that strive to maximize conservation benefits within a single agreement (and reduce risks of failure) are likely to have lower participation, and thus lower landscape benefits. Achieving levels of landowner participation in conservation agreement programs that deliver lasting, landscape-level benefits requires careful attention not only to how the program structure influences potential conservation benefits, but also how it influences landowners and their potential to participate.