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Conserving biodiversity could benefit the world's poor

High-priority sites for biodiversity conservation yield many of the world's ecosystem services, and ensuring that the stewards of such areas were paid by their beneficiaries could substantially alleviate poverty

Land areas that are a priority for wildlife conservation provide relatively high levels of ecosystem services such as pollination, water purification, food production, and climate regulation, so safeguarding them is expected to benefit people. Assessing these benefits to populations in ways that are useful to decisionmakers who guide conservation efforts has, however, proved difficult.

A global analysis published in the January 2012 issue of BioScience by Will R. Turner of Conservation International and his colleagues breaks new ground by analyzing the flow of benefits from ecosystem services under a variety of socioeconomic assumptions and in greater spatial detail than previous studies. The analysis, which divides the globe into more than 58,000 hexagons, finds that over half the global value of ecosystem services benefitting the world's poorest people originates in areas that are a high priority for conservation. Moreover, the value of ecosystem services generated by the top quarter of biodiversity sites is more than triple the effective cost of conserving them.

If there were effective and equitable mechanisms to ensure that the beneficiaries of ecosystem services paid those responsible for stewarding them, Turner and his colleagues conclude, global benefits to poor communities would robustly increase by 50 percent, and the payments would amount to more than a dollar per person per day for about a third of the 1.1 billion people in the world living in dire poverty. The authors say their findings reinforce the idea that there is an important concordance between biodiversity, provision of ecosystem services, and poverty that policymakers could use in designing equitable payment schemes to address both poverty and loss of biodiversity.

After noon EDT on 12 January and for the remainder of the month, the full text of the article will be available for free download through the copy of this Press Release available at

BioScience, published monthly, is the journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS). BioScience publishes commentary and peer-reviewed articles covering a wide range of biological fields, with a focus on "Organisms from Molecules to the Environment." The journal has been published since 1964. AIBS is an umbrella organization for professional scientific societies and organizations that are involved with biology. It represents nearly 160 member societies and organizations.

The complete list of peer-reviewed articles in the December 2011 issue of BioScience is as follows:

Local-Scale Carbon Budgets and Mitigation Opportunities for the Northeastern United States.

Steve M. Raciti, Timothy J. Fahey and colleagues

New Brazilian Floristic List Highlights Conservation Challenges.
Rafaela C. Forzza, José Fernando A. Baumgratz and colleagues
Biodiversity and the Feel-Good Factor: Understanding Associations between Self-Reported Human Well-Being and Species Richness.

Martin Dallimer, Katherine N. Irvine, Andrew M. J. Skinner, Zoe G. Davies, James R. Rouquette, Lorraine L. Maltby, Philip H. Warren, Paul R. Armsworth, and Kevin J. Gaston

The Central Role of Dispersal in the Maintenance and Persistence of Seagrass Populations.

Gary A. Kendrick, Michelle Waycott and colleagues

Five Kingdoms, More or Less: Robert Whittaker and the Broad Classification of Organisms.

Joel B. Hagen

Navigating a Critical Juncture for Sustainable Weed Management.
David A. Mortensen, J. Franklin Egan, Bruce D. Maxwell, Matthew R. Ryan, and Richard G. Smith
Global Biodiversity Conservation and the Alleviation of Poverty.
Will R. Turner, Katrina Brandon, Thomas M. Brooks, Claude Gascon, Holly K. Gibbs, Keith S. Lawrence, Russell A. Mittermeier, and Elizabeth R. Selig

Tim Beardsley | EurekAlert!
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