Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge (HSNWR) on Florida's east coast provides undisturbed nesting habitat for three species of threatened or endangered marine turtles. Predation by raccoons and armadillos poses the greatest risk to turtle nests, and predator control has been identified as the most important management tool for enhancing nesting productivity. Recently, estimates of the number of nests that would have been lost in the 2000 nesting and incubation season were made using the results from four control approaches. These approaches were, in order of descending complexity: (1) refuge control enhanced by a one person-month contract with federal control specialists, with that control optimized using a passive tracking methodology for monitoring predators; (2) refuge control enhanced by a one person-month contract with federal control specialists, without predator monitoring; (3) refuge control, but no contract with specialists; (4) no control. In that analysis, approach 1 resulted in the fewest turtles lost to predation. In this paper, we perform a benefit–cost analysis to determine if operational efficacy translates into economic efficiency. Approach 1 had by far the best benefit–cost ratio for loggerhead turtles, but approach 2 was best for Atlantic green and leatherback turtles. However, almost 90% of the turtles nesting at HSNWR are loggerhead, and this area is vital to loggerhead survival. Thus, approach 1 also had by far the best benefit–cost ratio over all turtle species, saving approximately $1.7 million over approach 2, $2.6 million over approach 3 and $8.4 million over approach 4. Given these results, one must ask how can we afford not to control predators, and furthermore, how can we not afford to take the minimal extra steps to maximize control efficacy.
Ecological Economics – Elsevier
Published: Sep 1, 2002
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