Local costs of conservation exceed those borne by the global majority

Jonathan M.H. Green, Brendan Fisher, Rhys E. Green, Joseph Makero, Philip J. Platts, Neema Robert, Marije Schaafsma, R. Kerry Turner, Andrew Balmford

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Cost data are crucial in conservation planning to identify more efficient and equitable land use options. However, many studies focus on just one cost type and neglect others, particularly those borne locally. We develop, for a high priority conservation area, spatial models of two local costs that arise from protected areas: foregone agricultural opportunities and increased wildlife damage. We then map these across the study area and compare them to the direct costs of reserve management, finding that local costs exceed management costs. Whilst benefits of conservation accrue to the global community, significant costs are borne by those living closest. Where livelihoods depend upon opportunities forgone or diminished by conservation intervention, outcomes are limited. Activities can be displaced (leakage); rules can be broken (intervention does not work); or the intervention forces a shift in livelihood profiles (potentially to the detriment of local peoples’ welfare). These raise concerns for both conservation and development outcomes and timely consideration of local costs is vital in conservation planning tools and processes.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00385
JournalGlobal Ecology and Conservation
Early online date17 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018


  • Conservation planning
  • Protected areas
  • Wildlife damage

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