In order to slow a worldwide loss of biodiversity, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) created the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020. Participating countries created conservation targets to be met by 2020. However, a lack of data on the costs involved to meet their goals has made financing difficult. Using threatened bird populations to create a model, McCarthy et al. (2012) analyzed the financial costs necessary to meet two of the CBD’s most urgent goals. By examining expert estimates on current and predicted costs of conservation actions, the authors calculated the expected costs necessary to reclassify globally threatened species to the next lowest category of extinction risk. They also conducted a separate analysis of the costs needed to expand protection of globally important sites for biodiversity. Both analyses found a need for increased investment in biodiversity conservation, particularly in financially poor but biodiversity-rich countries. The results should guide discussions on the costs necessary to fund the strategic plan.–Katie Huang
McCarthy, D.P, Donald, P.F., Scharlemann, J.P.W., Buchanan, G.M., Balmford, A., Green, J.M.H., Bennun, L.A., Burgess, N.D., Fishpool, L.D.C., Garnett, S.T., Leonard, D.L., Maloney, R.F., Morling, P., Schaefer, H.M., Symes, A., Wiedenfeld, D.A., Butchart, S.H.M., 2012. Financial costs of meeting global biodiversity conservation targets: current spending and unmet needs. Science 338, 946–949.
McCarthy et al. modeled the financial costs necessary to meet the CBD’s targets of preserving species and site biodiversity. They chose to focus on these goals for their urgency and overlap with the conservationist movement. The authors used data from birds, the best-known organism class, as the basis for their model. In order to determine the costs of species conservation, McCarthy et al. sampled 211 globally threatened bird species. They asked experts to estimate current conservation expenditures and the costs of actions needed to reclassify each species to the next lowest category of extinction risk. They modeled midrange cost estimates as a function of breeding distribution extent, degree of forest dependence, mean Gross Domestic Product per km2 of breeding range states, and mean Purchasing Power Parity of breeding range states. The model they created based on the sample was used to estimate costs for all globally threatened bird species. To estimate the cost of site conservation, the authors modeled the costs of conserving terrestrial Important Bird Areas (IBAs) using socioeconomic and site-specific variables for 396 sites across 50 countries. Both analyses applied the bird models to all taxa to create a total estimate for the cost of implementing the strategic plan.
The authors found that the estimated median cost for conservation actions needed to downlist one species within 10 years would be $0.848 million. The estimated total cost to downlist the 1,115 globally threatened bird species would be approximately $1.23 billion annually, assuming that there would be no overlap in the effects of various conservation actions. However, as only 20% of actions are species-specific, McCarthy et al. revised the minimum total to $0.875 billion annually. Of that sum, $0.379 to $0.614 billion is needed in lower-income countries, which would likely require financial assistance. Additionally, the total amount is susceptible to increase due to possible intensification in affecting factors such as climate change. The authors also found that for their sample of 211 bird species, a majority of the median $0.065 million spent annually was primarily concentrated on a few species. Only 3% of all species received adequate funding. To address the inequity in distribution, an additional $0.769 to $1.08 billion per year is needed. By applying the model to all taxa, the authors estimated that a total range of $3.41 to $4.76 billion is necessary to conserve all known threatened species as outlined in the CBD Strategic Plan, with the latter figure assuming no cost-sharing among species.
Based on their model of the costs of site conservation, the authors found that it would cost $7.18 billion annually to maintain currently protected IBAs. To expand protection to currently unprotected and partially protected IBAs, it would cost a total of $50.7 billion per year. Thus, the total amount required to fully protect all IBAs would equal $57.8 billion annually. Of that sum, $17.48 billion is needed in lower-income countries. Expanding coverage to more diverse taxa than just birds would cost $76.1 billion annually. Based on current data of conservation expenditures, the authors estimate that the amount spent on managing protected, partially protected, and unprotected IBAs is deficient in both lower- and higher-income countries.
As actions for species and site conservation are likely to overlap, the authors estimate that the combined cost to reach these targets is approximately $78.1 billion annually, but these costs would also likely contribute to other CBD goals. However, aside from monetary deficiency, there are still obstacles to conserving biodiversity. Even with increased investment, the CBD must prioritize which sites and species it will focus most on preserving. It also needs to manage the inequity between resources in higher- and lower-income countries, as many of the latter are financially poor but rich in biodiversity. The results of the study should help implement the CBD’s strategic plan by providing the financial guidelines necessary for its funding.