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Efficiency and Concordance of Alternative Methods for Minimizing Opportunity Costs in Conservation Planning
- CAMERON, SUSAN E., WILLIAMS, KRISTEN J., MITCHELL, DAVID K.
- Conservation biology 2008 v.22 no.4 pp. 886-896
- biodiversity, decision support systems, food security, land use, opportunity costs, planning, society, Papua New Guinea
- Scarce resources and competing land‐use goals necessitate efficient biodiversity conservation. Combining multicriteria analysis with conservation decision‐support tools improves efficiency of conservation planning by maximizing outcomes for biodiversity while minimizing opportunity costs to society. An opportunity cost is the benefit that could have been received by taking an alternative course of action (i.e., costs to society of protecting an area for biodiversity rather than developing it for some other use). Although different ways of integrating multiple opportunity costs into conservation planning have been suggested, there have been no tests as to which method is most efficient. We compared the relative efficiency of 3 such procedures (Faith & Walker , Sarkar et al. , and a procedure of our own design) in a systematic conservation‐planning framework for the Milne Bay Province of Papua New Guinea. We devised 14 opportunity costs and assigned these to 3 scenarios representing different conservation planning concerns: food security, macro‐economic development, and biodiversity persistence. For each scenario, we compared the efficiency of the 3 methods in terms of amount of biodiversity protected relative to total expenditure for each opportunity cost. All 3 methods captured similar amounts of biodiversity, but differed in total cost. Our method had the least overall cost and was therefore most efficient. Nevertheless, there was a high correlation and geographical concordance among all 3 methods, indicating a high degree of spatial overlap. This suggests that choosing an appropriate approach may often depend on contextual factors related to the design of the planning question, rather than efficiency alone.