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carbon credits. However, the amount of the resources needed is such that the major source must be tax revenue, raised by governments. Nationally and globally, those who benefit from biodiversity conservation, including its dispersed ecosystem services and existence values, must be prepared to pay for it, rather than watch it vanish.

Those who enjoy the benefits of biodiversity conservation should pay the costs

The implication of this analysis is that more of the costs of conservation to local communities must be met by payments from the national and global beneficiaries for the continued delivery of biodiversity goods and services. While such payments raise a number of difficulties, these appear to be soluble both in principle and in practice2. By far the biggest obstacle is the lack of political or societal recognition, nationally and globally, that biodiversity conservation needs to be paid for and is a worthwhile, indeed essential, investment. While the principle of global payment for global goods is already enshrined in the Convention on Biological Diversity, developed countries have dismally failed to live up to their commitments. SOURCES 1. Balmford & Whitten (2003) Oryx 37: 238–250. 2. Ferraro & Kiss (2002) Science 298:



e.g. establishing and managing a National Park Passive costs e.g. loss of potential farmland

Consumptive uses e.g. provision of medicinal plants

Nature-based tourism e.g. visits by birdwatchers


The difficulty is that the biggest benefits are often enjoyed at distances remote from the conserved area—at the national and global scales. These benefits are also very hard to quantify in monetary terms. They include the role of natural habitats in carbon storage and climate regulation. They also include the possibility of use in the future (option values), the value of a habitat or species still existing (existence values) and the chance to pass on benefits to future generations (bequest values). These services and values accrue at a larger scale and to many more people than localised services. Their importance will grow as people become more numerous, more wealthy and more aware of their natural heritage; and as natural habitats become more diminished, fragmented and threatened.

Localised ecosystem services e.g. dry-season waterflows

Businesses need to take biodiversity on board

The corporate sector often has a poor reputation where biodiversity conservation is concerned. Especially in countries with weakly developed regulation, it has often appeared that businesses are happy to take short-term gains even if these come at tremendous environmental cost. However, some more far-sighted businesses, often with activities that directly impact the environment, are increasingly recognising that they have a stake in biodiversity conservation. This makes sound business sense: by incorporating biodiversity values into operational and strategic planning, businesses can avoid costly confrontation, improve their licence to operate and achieve meaningful reputational gains. Working in partnership with a conservation NGO can bring real gains for biodiversity while achieving business goals. Rio Tinto, a multinational mining company, has such a partnership with BirdLife International. This works in a number of ways to address the company’s sustainable development objectives while achieving a range of benefits to bird conservation. The partnership has a particular focus on Important Bird Areas (IBAs) that are close to individual Rio Tinto businesses. For example:  In South Africa at Richards Bay, where Rio Tinto mines coastal dune sand, the business helps support the Richards Bay Avitourism Programme. Under this programme, IBAs are highlights within the Zululand Birding Route, managed by BirdLife South Africa. Notably, the programme helps individuals from the local communities to develop both their nature-interpretation and business skills. This has a multiplier effect in building local support for effective conservation and management of the IBAs. Thus, the programme helps communities to achieve sustainable livelihoods that depend on conservation—and builds constructive community relations for Rio Tinto.  In Namibia, Rössing Uranium has worked closely with local businesses, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and a local NGO to safeguard the breeding sites of Damara Tern Sterna damarensis (Near Threatened). The terns’ main breeding site is an IBA on the coast between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay, close to Rössing Uranium’s operations.  In the USA, a project run by the National Audubon Society (BirdLife in the USA) addresses visitor access, site management and interpretation of a shorebird IBA at Great Salt Lake in Utah. This project builds on the management of an adjacent shorebird reserve purchased (as mitigation for a mine development) by Kennecott Utah Copper, another Rio Tinto business. These partnerships are achieving benefits that are locally relevant, yet aligned with regional and global conservation frameworks and with wider business objectives.

What birds tell us about solutions

A perennial problem in biodiversity conservation has been inadequate information on costs and benefits, and the scale at which these apply. Recent analyses are beginning to get to grips with this problem, at least at a conceptual level1. In developing countries, local communities generally pay little of the ‘active’ costs of conservation—for example, the budget for managing a national park. But although these communities are often impoverished, they pay most of the ‘passive’ costs, such as benefits foregone through lost opportunities for conversion or exploitation (see figure). These costs, although rarely taken into account, can be very substantial. They are one reason why it is often so difficult to make ‘conservation and development’ projects Rough representation of the relative costs and benefits of conserving work. Such projects usually try to offset such costs through new incomegenerating schemes, for instance marketing sustainably-harvested forest biodiversity (e.g. at a particular Important Bird Area) at the local, national and global scales 1 products, bee-keeping or nature-based tourism. While there are successful examples of this approach, it is hard to apply where the local Local National Global benefits (even including those from localised ecological services) are Active costs substantially less than those offered by land conversion.



The costs and benefits of biodiversity conservation are still very skewed at different scales. By and large, the costs are borne locally while the benefits accrue on a wider scale— nationally and globally (box 2). Covering the costs requires a major

increase of the resources available to invest in conservation (see pp. 54–55). There are many innovative ideas about how to go about this, including involving private donors, encouraging commercial sector investments and partnerships (box 3), and developing new markets for conservation-friendly products, ecosystem services and

State of the world’s birds 2004

The mismatch between conservation costs and benefits needs addressing

Dispersed ecosystem services e.g. carbon storage Option, existence and bequest values e.g. genetic reservoir The size of the circles illustrates the approximate relative size of the benefit or cost


State of the world’s birds 2004  

State of the world’s birds provides information on how birds can be used to focus action and as indicators to monitor change. Using the most...

State of the world’s birds 2004  

State of the world’s birds provides information on how birds can be used to focus action and as indicators to monitor change. Using the most...