In a study of the traditional livelihoods of 12 Monpa and Brokpa villages in Arunachal Pradesh, India using social-ecological and participatory rural appraisal techniques, we found that the forest tree species paisang (Quercus griffithii, a species of oak) is vital to agroecosystem sustainability. Paisang trees are conserved both by individuals and through community governance, because their leaves play a crucial role in sustaining 11 traditional cropping systems of the Monpa peoples. An Indigenous institution, Chhopa, regulates access to paisang leaves, ensuring that the relationship between paisang and traditional field crop species within Monpa agroecosystems is sustainable. The Monpa farmers also exchange leaves and agricultural products for yak-based foods produced by the transhumant Brokpa, who are primarily yak herders. Yak herds also graze in paisang groves during winter. These practices have enabled the conservation of about 33 landraces, yak breeds, and a number of wild plants. Paisang thus emerged as a culturally important keystone species in the cultures and livelihoods of both Monpa and Brokpa. Ecological and conservation knowledge and ethics about paisang vary with gender, social systems, and altitudes. Labor shortages, however, have already caused some changes to the ways in which paisang leaves are used and yak grazing patterns are also changing in the face of changes in attitude among local landowners. Given new competing interests, incentives schemes are now needed to conserve the ecologically sustainable traditional livelihoods.
Threatened species programs need a social license to justify public funding. A contingent valuation survey of a broadly representative sample of the Australian public found that almost two thirds (63%) supported funding of threatened bird conservation. These included 45% of a sample of 645 respondents willing to pay into a fund for threatened bird conservation, 3% who already supported bird conservation in another form, and 15% who could not afford to pay into a conservation fund but who nevertheless thought that humans have a moral obligation to protect threatened birds. Only 6% explicitly opposed such payments. Respondents were willing to pay about AUD 11 annually into a conservation fund (median value), including those who would pay nothing. Highest values were offered by young or middle aged men, and those with knowledge of birds and those with an emotional response to encountering an endangered bird. However, the prospect of a bird going extinct alarmed almost everybody, even most of those inclined to put the interests of people ahead of birds and those who resent the way threatened species sometimes hold up development. The results suggest that funding for threatened birds has widespread popular support among the Australian population. Conservatively they would be willing to pay about AUD 14 million per year, and realistically about AUD 70 million, which is substantially more than the AUD 10 million currently thought to be required to prevent Australian bird extinctions.
Climate change will have far-reaching impacts on biodiversity, including increasing extinction rates. Current approaches to quantifying such impacts focus on measuring exposure to climatic change and largely ignore the biological differences between species that may significantly increase or reduce their vulnerability. To address this, we present a framework for assessing three dimensions of climate change vulnerability, namely sensitivity, exposure and adaptive capacity; this draws on species biological traits and their modeled exposure to projected climatic changes. In the largest such assessment to date, we applied this approach to each of the worlds birds, amphibians and corals (16,857 species). The resulting assessments identify the species with greatest relative vulnerability to climate change and the geographic areas in which they are concentrated, including the Amazon basin for amphibians and birds, and the central Indo-west Pacific (Coral Triangle) for corals. We found that high concentration areas for species with traits conferring highest sensitivity and lowest adaptive capacity differ from those of highly exposed species, and we identify areas where exposure-based assessments alone may over or under-estimate climate change impacts. We found that 608-851 bird (6-9%), 670-933 amphibian (11-15%), and 47-73 coral species (6-9%) are both highly climate change vulnerable and already threatened with extinction on the IUCN Red List. The remaining highly climate change vulnerable species represent new priorities for conservation. Fewer species are highly climate change vulnerable under lower IPCC SRES emissions scenarios, indicating that reducing greenhouse emissions will reduce climate change driven extinctions. Our study answers the growing call for a more biologically and ecologically inclusive approach to assessing climate change vulnerability. By facilitating independent assessment of the three dimensions of climate change vulnerability, our approach can be used to devise species and area-specific conservation interventions and indices. The priorities we identify will strengthen global strategies to mitigate climate change impacts.
There is ongoing pressure to develop the largely unaltered Daly River catchment in northern Australia for agriculture. However, a choice experiment among people in the region and in Australias largest city, Sydney, shows that people are prepared to pay substantial amounts to maintain the quality of its ecosystem services. The total stated willingness-to-pay (WTP) for a Daly River conservation programme was about $300, of which people would be willing to pay over half ($161) if the programme retained waterholes for Aboriginal people in good condition. The WTP for high quality recreational fishing and biodiversity values was $120 and $91 respectively. Using the average cost of a recreational fishing license in Australia ($35) as a basis for grounding the stated preferences in empirical values, as well as the cost of park entry fees and the amount of support society provides to agriculture in Australia, the total amount that the 110,000 people in the region are likely to be willing to pay for the retention of the values in the Daly River catchment is about $6 million, while the 4.5 million people in Sydney would be willing to pay about $81 million. A significant finding in this research is that, while fishing, biodiversity and agricultural values all have equivalents in the market economy, the value for which people were willing to pay most, the cultural value, has no equivalent at all and is thus receives almost no investment.
We agree entirely with Arlettaz et al. that we face an environmental crisis of extraordinary proportions. However, their analysis of how to respond perfectly illustrates our point. In particular, we would transpose their statement Although we agree that communication strategies must accommodate human psychology to succeed, we believe that neglecting or euphemizing the dramatic impact that humans have on the biosphere, just through fear of the Cassandra syndrome when addressing an inconvenient truth, is not an acceptable alternative discourse. to Although acknowledging the dramatic impact humans exert on the biosphere, there is no acceptable alternative discourse; to adopting communication strategies that accommodate human psychology.
In many sectors, freedom in capital flow has allowed optimization of investment returns through choosing sites that provide the best value for money. These returns, however, can be compromised in countries where corruption is prevalent. We assessed where the best value for money might be obtained for investment in threatened species that occur at a single site, when taking into account corruption. We found that the influence of corruption on potential investment decisions was outweighed by the likely value for money in terms of pricing parity. Nevertheless global conservation is likely to get best returns in terms of threatened species security by investing in "honest" countries than in corrupt ones, particularly those with a high cost of living.
Australians could be willing to pay from $878m to $2b per year for Indigenous people to provide environmental services. This is up to 50 times the amount currently invested by government. This result was derived from a nationwide survey that included a choice experiment in which 70% of the 927 respondents were willing to contribute to a conservation fund that directly pays Indigenous people to carry out conservation activities. Of these the highest values were found for benefits that are likely to improve biodiversity outcomes, carbon emission reductions and improved recreational values. Of the activities that could be undertaken to provide the services, feral animal control attracted the highest level of support followed by coastal surveillance, weed control and fire management. Respondents decisions to pay were not greatly influenced by the additional social benefits that can arise for Indigenous people spending time on country and providing the services, although there was approval for reduced welfare payments that might arise.
Australias system of tropical rivers constitutes one of the largest and least changed drainage networks in the world. However increasing demand for water in parts of Australia, along with ongoing drought, is driving pressure to develop these rivers. This paper reports the results of a choice experiment (CE) to assess the benefits of different management strategies for three tropical rivers in northern Australia: the Daly, Mitchell and Fitzroy Rivers. The CE was carried out using a survey mailed to Australian urban populations. The results showed that 90% of Australians were willing to pay a once-off payment for the management of tropical rivers. Respondents who had visited or lived near the rivers were willing to pay more for cultural, recreational and environmental services than those who had not. Respondents classed as developers, who made up only 4% of the 684 respondents, considered a substantial income from irrigated agriculture as important. Unlike environmentalists and neutrals, developers were unwilling to pay for high quality recreational fishing or for having floodplains in good environmental condition. All groups, however, were willing to pay for high cultural values.
To identify the possible savings in the cost of primary health care of chronic disease associated with the participation by Aboriginal people in land management. In so-doing we investigate the connection of health of Aboriginal people and the extent of their involvement in land management in remote-very remote Australia.
World governments have committed to halting human-induced extinctions and safeguarding important sites for biodiversity by 2020, but the financial costs of meeting these targets are largely unknown. We estimate the cost of reducing the extinction risk of all globally threatened bird species (by ?1 International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List category) to be U.S. $0.875 to $1.23 billion annually over the next decade, of which 12% is currently funded. Incorporating threatened nonavian species increases this total to U.S. $3.41 to $4.76 billion annually. We estimate that protecting and effectively managing all terrestrial sites of global avian conservation significance (11,731 Important Bird Areas) would cost U.S. $65.1 billion annually. Adding sites for other taxa increases this to U.S. $76.1 billion annually. Meeting these targets will require conservation funding to increase by at least an order of magnitude.
Birds have long fascinated scientists and travellers, so their distribution and abundance through time have been better documented than those of other organisms. Many bird species are known to have gone extinct, but information on subspecies extinctions has never been synthesised comprehensively. We reviewed the timing, spatial patterns, trends and causes of avian extinctions on a global scale, identifying 279 ultrataxa (141 monotypic species and 138 subspecies of polytypic species) that have gone extinct since 1500. Species extinctions peaked in the early 20(th) century, then fell until the mid 20(th) century, and have subsequently accelerated. However, extinctions of ultrataxa peaked in the second half of the 20(th) century. This trend reflects a consistent decline in the rate of extinctions on islands since the beginning of the 20(th) century, but an acceleration in the extinction rate on continents. Most losses (78.7% of species and 63.0% of subspecies) occurred on oceanic islands. Geographic foci of extinctions include the Hawaiian Islands (36 taxa), mainland Australia and islands (29 taxa), the Mascarene Islands (27 taxa), New Zealand (22 taxa) and French Polynesia (19 taxa). The major proximate drivers of extinction for both species and subspecies are invasive alien species (58.2% and 50.7% of species and subspecies, respectively), hunting (52.4% and 18.8%) and agriculture, including non-timber crops and livestock farming (14.9% and 31.9%). In general, the distribution and drivers of subspecific extinctions are similar to those for species extinctions. However, our finding that, when subspecies are considered, the extinction rate has accelerated in recent decades is both novel and alarming.
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