Thursday, June 15, 2006

Frontiers in Ecology: Species Conservation Helps Reduce Poverty. Even Bugs Provide $$Billions...

One of the key things that I aim to accomplish with this blog is to serve as a bridge between the best knowledge of the ecological and conservation sciences, and our non-scientific readers.

While perusing through the latest two issues of the Ecological Society of America's Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment last night, I found a couple of intriguing pieces of Conservation Value-type news that I wanted to share here:

1. Species Conservation Helps Reduce Poverty. A recent report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), "Species and People: Linked Futures", challenges the common perception that conservation is harmful to economic interests. The report, says WWF's Amanda Nickson, demonstrates that:
"in many cases, the dynamics which threaten species are also those which contribute to poverty, such as habitat loss and the lack of appropriate governance and resource management mechanisms. This report shows how imodern species conservation programs can and do reduce poverty, increase food security, improve governance structures, and increase women's participation in society."
One example is the benefits that the townpeople of Tortuguero, Costa Rica, have realized from switching from hunting sea turtles and taking their eggs, to turtle tourism. "In 2005, over 36,000 tourists came to watch the turtles nest", says Sebastian Troeng, of the Caribbean Conservation Corporation. "Over 35 years, we've seen a 400% increase in green turtle nesting". Tortugero's human development indicators, the article notes, "outshine those of similar towns where turtle eggs are still harvested or simply ignored."

2. Billion Dollar Bugs reports on the findings of researchers that insects provide ecosystem services worth more than $57 billion in the U.S. each year. "The study, published in BioScience (2006; 56:311-323) found that native insects are the food for wildlife that support a $50 billion recreation industry, provide more than $4.5 billion in pest control, pollinate $3 billion in crops, clean up grazing lands, and carry out $380 million worth of dung burial for the cattle industry."

Co-author, Mace Vaughan, of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, says that their results are "conservative estimates" of only a few services.

Frontiers notes that "Conservationists are increasingly trying to tie the merits of conservation to human well-being; the ecosystem service example makes that connection while resonating with important stakeholders, such as the business community." The article quotes The Nature Conservancy's Science Director, Peter Karieva:
"Services not normally part of a conservation discussion get put on the table once a dollar value is attached. Conservation will fail unless it better connects to people, and ecosystem services is the best way to do that."


  1. Anonymous3:09 AM

    I see that The Nature Conservancy also has an article about conservation's effects on poverty (and vice versa) in their magazine.

  2. Outstanding--thanks for the tip!