Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The escalating cost of forest conservation

AlphaGalileo via the National University of Singapore: In the face of unprecedented deforestation and biodiversity loss, policy makers are increasingly using financial incentives to encourage conservation. However, a research team led by the National University of Singapore (NUS) revealed that in the long run, conservation incentives may struggle to compete with future agricultural yields.

...Incentives are being levereged in dozens of tropical developing countries to conserve forests, to protect biodiversity and reduce carbon emissions from deforestation. This incentive-based approach is comparatively inexpensive, as low agricultural yields and widespread poverty often mean that relatively small incentives can motivate many landholders to protect their land for conservation.

As a result, this approach has become a leading climate change mitigation strategy adopted by the United Nations as policies for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation. In a bid to assess the future viability of these types of conservation programmes, the team, comprising researchers from NUS, ETH Zurich and University of Cambridge, developed a framework and model that looked at the strategy’s effectiveness in the context of intensified farming practices.

...However, the researchers highlight how those higher yields and incomes will also increase financial incentives for farmers to clear more forest for agriculture. As a result, financial incentives to encourage farmers to protect forests and not expand agriculture would need to escalate as well. They expect farmers who were once willing to protect forests for a comparative pittance could, in a matter of years, demand more for their conservation actions. Small-scale farmers might also be displaced by larger commercial ventures as farming becomes more lucrative, and as profits increase with growing global demand for agricultural products.

After taking these factors into account, the researchers found that while the current costs of forest conservation in many countries are very low, future changes in agricultural practices could radically increase the cost of conservation...

A pile of illegally logged rosewood in Madagascar, shot by Erik Patel, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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