Estimating the impacts of conservation on ecosystem services and poverty by integrating modeling and evaluation.
Scholars have made great advances in modeling and mapping ecosystem services, and in assigning economic values to these services. This modeling and valuation scholarship is often disconnected from evidence about how actual conservation programs have affected ecosystem services, however. Without a stronger evidence base, decision makers find it difficult to use the insights from modeling and valuation to design effective policies and programs. To strengthen the evidence base, scholars have advanced our understanding of the causal pathways between conservation actions and environmental outcomes, but their studies measure impacts on imperfect proxies for ecosystem services (e.g., avoidance of deforestation). To be useful to decision makers, these impacts must be translated into changes in ecosystem services and values. To illustrate how this translation can be done, we estimated the impacts of protected areas in Brazil, Costa Rica, Indonesia, and Thailand on carbon storage in forests. We found that protected areas in these conservation hotspots have stored at least an additional 1,000 Mt of CO2 in forests and have delivered ecosystem services worth at least $5 billion. This aggregate impact masks important spatial heterogeneity, however. Moreover, the spatial variability of impacts on carbon storage is the not the same as the spatial variability of impacts on avoided deforestation. These findings lead us to describe a research program that extends our framework to study other ecosystem services, to uncover the mechanisms by which ecosystem protection benefits humans, and to tie cost-benefit analyses to conservation planning so that we can obtain the greatest return on scarce conservation funds.
Ferraro, PJ; Hanauer, MM; Miteva, DA; Nelson, JL; Pattanayak, SK; Nolte, C; Sims, KRE
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