Designing conservation areas entails costs that, if considered explicitly, can be minimized while still achieving conservation targets. Here we focus on opportunity costs which measure forgone benefits from alternative land uses. Conservation planning studies often use partial estimates of costs, but the extent to which these result in actual efficiencies has not been demonstrated. Our study partitions land costs into three distinct opportunity costs to smallholder agriculture, soybean agriculture and ranching. We demonstrate that opportunity costs to single stakeholder groups can be inaccurate measures of true opportunity costs and can inadvertently shift conservation costs to affect groups of stakeholders disproportionately. Additionally, we examine how spatial correlations between costs as well as target size affect the performance of opportunity costs to single stakeholder groups as surrogate measures of true opportunity costs. We conclude that planning with opportunity costs to single stakeholder groups can result in cost burdens to other groups that could undermine the long-term success of conservation. Thus, an understanding of the spatial distributions of opportunity costs that are disaggregated to groups of stakeholders is necessary to make informed decisions about priority conservation areas.
Biological Conservation – Elsevier
Published: Feb 1, 2010
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