Ecological and economic evaluation should be a key component of biodiversity conservation programmes since it underpins the efficient allocation of resources. However, most such programmes are not currently assessed in terms of the rate of return on investment that they provide. The UK Government launched the UK Biodiversity Action Plan in 1994. We collected data from those responsible for monitoring this programme, then used a form of cost-effectiveness analysis to evaluate its effectiveness and efficiency at meeting the targets of individual Species Action Plans. In this context, effectiveness refers to the goal of maximising total conservation gains, whereas efficiency refers to maximising conservation gain per unit cost. We define the latter as a basic economic objective for conservation resource allocation. We find that the distribution of spending across plans was highly biased towards vertebrates and there was no correlation between cost and effectiveness. Non-vertebrate plans tended to be more efficient than vertebrate plans. However, following a species utility-based weighting, this tendency was less pronounced and a significant positive correlation between cost and effectiveness emerged. Nevertheless, this evidence suggests that the efficiency of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan could be improved by correcting the imbalance in spending between vertebrate and non-vertebrate plans. This study highlights the importance of effective monitoring and reporting in determining the utility of biodiversity conservation programmes. It demonstrates how explicit cost-effectiveness analysis can be used to evaluate such programmes, and shows that it could also be adapted to accommodate other forms of ecological and social value.
Biological Conservation – Elsevier
Published: Dec 1, 2009
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