Are ecosystem service trade-offs relatively common?

A recent paper by Heather Tallis et al. reports the finding that win-win conservation projects — those that aim to achieve both conservation objectives and economic gains — are relatively rare. In this paper (Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2008 Jul 15 105(28):9457-64), the authors examine World Bank projects with dual objectives of alleviating poverty and protecting biodiversity and find that only 16% made major progress on both objectives.

These results suggest that trade-offs among ecosystem services may be more common than previously thought. (Fairly interesting since other studies have shown that win-wins are common;however, those studies have generally not considered agriculture/food to be an ecosystem service. Since agriculture is one of the key services that has trade-offs with conservation, it is an important one to consider when assessing the conservation potential in an area.)

Nevertheless, the authors point out that there are strategies for improving management of ecosystem services and human well-being. These include better monitoring of conservation projects’ effects on ecosystem services and human well-being and also improving monitoring of multiple ecosystem services, including the flow of services from one region to another and the effects of markets on provision of ecosystem services.

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