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

"What the research clearly tells us is that conserving the world's remaining biodiversity isn't just a moral imperative; it is a necessary investment for lasting economic development. But in many places where the poor depend on these natural services, we are dangerously close to exhausting them, resulting in lasting poverty," � Dr. Will Turner

The ground-breaking study published in the journal BioScience, "Global Biodiversity Conservation and the Alleviation of Poverty", was led by a team from Conservation International, and co-authored by scientists at NatureServe, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The scientists analyzed the value of benefits the world's poorest people receive from priority areas for biodiversity conservation. They assessed a broad range of 'ecosystem services', the benefits people receive from natural habitats – from local benefits including crop pollination, foods, medicines, and clean, fresh water, to global benefits such as climate regulation


Poverty and biodiversity loss are two of the world’s dire challenges. Claims of conservation’s contribution to poverty alleviation, however, remain controversial. Here, we assess the flows of ecosystem services provided to people by priority habitats for terrestrial conservation, considering the global distributions of biodiversity, physical factors, and socioeconomic context. We estimate the value of these habitats to the poor, both through direct benefits and through payments for ecosystem services to those stewarding natural habitats. The global potential for biodiversity conservation to support poor communities is high: The top 25 percent of conservation priority areas could provide 56%-57% of benefits. The aggregate benefits are valued at three times the estimated opportunity costs and exceed $1 per person per day for 331 million of the world’s poorest people. Although trade-offs remain, these results show win-win synergies between conservation and poverty alleviation, indicate that effective financial mechanisms can enhance these synergies, and suggest biodiversity conservation as a fundamental component of sustainable economic development.

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Turner, W.R., et al., "Global Biodiversity Conservation and the Alleviation of Poverty". BioScience 62: 85–92. ISSN 0006-3568, electronic ISSN 1525-3244. Learn more at »

      Biodiversity; Human Well-being