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Title: The optimal design of conservation investments
Author: Lennox, Gareth
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2012
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A substantial proportion of biodiversity occurs on private land. In attempting to halt the decline of this biodiversity, voluntary contracts with private landowners have become a cornerstone of conservation investments. Taking a theoretical modelling approach, I investigate several issues in the design of voluntary conservation investments. First, I consider the implications for conservation of the informational advantage that landowners have in contract negotiations. I find that landowners have the potential to use their private information on conservation costs to make conservation considerably more expensive than suggested by estimates of opportunity costs relied on in previous studies. Next, I consider how cost structures affect the optimal distribution of nature reserves, showing that common cost structures used in conservation studies could lead to ineffective and inefficient reserves designs. Following on from this, by mapping the trade-off between conservation improvements and the increasing costs of achieving those improvements over various species distributions, I find that conservation will be most cost-effective when species are highly nested and conservation targets include widespread species. Finally, I analyse how socio-economic and ecological uncertainty affects the choice between short or long conservation contracts and reveal that socio-economic factors have a greater impact on contract choice than those of an ecological nature. Several important conclusions follow from these results. First, conservation science must deal with the complexities of conservation planning problems. Simplifications, such as assuming conservation costs equal opportunity costs, can result in distorted conservation priorities and unrealistic expectations. Second, incorporating in analyses the uncertainties inherent in conservation planning, such as uncertainties in cost and the future ecological condition of sites, is crucial for developing effective conservation strategies. Finally, the results reinforce the conclusion of other recent studies that variation in socio-economic aspects of conservation can be more important for effective conservation planning than variation in indicators of biodiversity.
Supervisor: Armsworth, Paul R. ; Beckerman, Andrew Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available