Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 20, Issue 5, pp 1045–1055 | Cite as

Does proactive biodiversity conservation save costs?

  • Martin DrechslerEmail author
  • Florian V. Eppink
  • Frank Wätzold
Original Paper


Ecologists usually argue for a proactive approach to species conservation—it should start before a species is endangered and under substantial risk of extinction. In reality, however, conservation often only starts when species populations are already in a critical state. This may be the result of a policy process in which those actors who see only little or no benefits from conserving species try to delay conservation as long as possible to avoid its cost. A frequent consequence is that populations decline to critical levels so that once conservation policies set in due to legal obligations, political pressure or any other reason, additional conservation measures are required to re-establish the populations. We show that the costs associated with this policy process may be higher than those of a proactive policy. This is somewhat surprising because the costs of maintaining populations at a level at which they are not endangered may occur over a longer period. However, the costs of bringing species populations back to those levels may be so high that they outweigh the costs of the proactive approach. We develop simple cost functions that capture the main economic and ecological parameters relevant to our argument and apply them for an assessment of the costs of common hamster (Cricetus cricetus) conservation in the region of Mannheim, Germany. We find that a proactive approach would have saved between €17.2 and €36.4 mn compared to the existing policy where conservation was delayed until legal requirements forced local policy makers to implement a comprehensive hamster protection programme.


Common hamster Conservation management Conservation costs Cost assessment Proactive conservation 



Valuable comments from an anonymous referee and Frank Krysiak and Stefan Baumgärtner on an earlier version of this paper are gratefully acknowledged.


  1. Ando A, Camm J, Polasky S, Solow A (1998) Species distribution, land values and efficient conservation. Science 279:2126–2128PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baumgärtner S, Becker C, Frank K, Müller B, Quaas M (2008) Relating the philosophy and practice of ecological economics. The role of concepts, models and case studies in inter- and transdisciplinary sustainability research. Ecological Economics 67:384–393CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Costello C, Polasky S (2004) Dynamic reserve site selection. Resource and Energy Economics 26:157–174CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Drechsler M, Wätzold F (2007) The optimal dynamic allocation of conservation funds under financial uncertainty. Ecological Economics 61:255–266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Drechsler M, Johst K, Wätzold F, Westphal M (2006) Integrating Economic Costs into the Analysis of Flexible Conservation Management. Ecol Appl 16:1959–1966PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Drechsler M, Wätzold F, Johst K, Bergmann H, Settele J (2007a) A model-based approach for designing cost-effective compensation payments for conservation of endangered species in real landscapes. Biol Conserv 140:174–186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Drechsler M, Johst K, Ohl C, Wätzold F (2007b) Designing cost-effective payments for conservation measures to generate spatiotemporal habitat heterogeneity. Conserv Biol 21:1475–1486PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. EC (2006) Nature and biodiversity cases: ruling of the European court of justice. Office for official publications of the European Communities, LuxemburgGoogle Scholar
  9. Eppink F, Wätzold F (2009) Comparing visible and less visible costs of the Habitats Directive: the case of hamster conservation in Germany. Biodivers Conserv 18(4):795–810CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. FN B (2005) Warum Naturschutz: fünf Gründe die Viele überraschen dürften. Bundesamt für Naturschutz, Bonn, GermanyGoogle Scholar
  11. Fuller T, Sánchez-Cordero V, Illoldi-Rangel P, Linaje M, Sarkar S (2007) The cost of postponing biodiversity conservation in Mexico. Biol Conserv 134:593–600CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gerowitt B, Isselstein I, Marggraf R (2003) Rewards for ecological goods—requirements and perspectives for agricultural land use. Agric Ecosyst Environ 98:541–547CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hanski I, Ovaskainen O (2002) Extinction debt at extinction threshold. Conserv Biol 16:666–673CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Heal G (2007) Discounting: a review of the basic economics. The University of Chicago Law Review 74:59–77Google Scholar
  15. Hysing E, Olsson J (2005) Sustainability through good advice? Assessing the Governance of Swedish forest biodiversity. Environmental Politics 14:510–526CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. MA (2005) Millenium ecosystem assesment: Ecosystems and human well-being: biodiversity synthesis. Technical Report, World Resources Institute, Washington, DC, USAGoogle Scholar
  17. Martín-López M, Montes C, Ramírez L, Benayas J (2009) What drives policy decision-making related to species conservation? Biol Conserv 142:1370–1380Google Scholar
  18. McDonald-Madden E, Bode M, Game ET, Grantham H, Possingham HP (2008) The need for speed: informed land acquisitions for conservation in a dynamic property market. Ecol Lett 11:1169–1177PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. MEDAD (2005) Plan d’action pour le Hamster commun (Cricetus cricetus) en Alsace: Tome 1 2007–2011. Ministère de l’écologie du développement et de l’aménagement durables.
  20. Meir E, Andelmann S, Possingham HP (2004) Does conservation planning matter in a dynamic and uncertain world? Ecol Lett 7:615–622CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Menkhorst PW, Loyn RH, Brown PB (1990) Management of the Orange-bellied Parrot. In: Clark TW, Seebeck JH (eds) Management and conservation of small populations. Chicago Zoological Society, Chicago, IL, USA, pp 239–251Google Scholar
  22. Naidoo R, Adamowicz WL (2006) Economic benefits of biodiversity exceed costs of conservation at an African rainforest. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 102:16712–16716Google Scholar
  23. Naidoo R, Balmford A, Ferraro PJ, Polasky S, Ricketts TH, Rouget M (2006) Integrating economic costs into conservation planning. Trends Ecol Evol 21:681–687PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Nechay G (2000) Status of hamsters: Cricetus cricetus, Cricetus migratorius, Mesocricetus Newtoni and other hamster species in Europe. Nature and Environment Series 106, Council of Europe Publishing, EuropeGoogle Scholar
  25. Newburn D, Reed S, Berck P, Merenlender A (2005) Economics and land-use change in prioritizing private land conservation. Conserv Biol 19:1411–1420CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Persson AS, Olsson O, Rundlöf M, Smith HG (2010) Land use intensity and landscape complexity—Analysis of landscape characteristics in an agricultural region in Southern Sweden. Agric Ecosyst Environ 136:169–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Pressey RL, Cabeza M, Watts ME, Cowling RM, Wilson KA (2007) Conservation planning in a changing world. Trends Ecol Evol 22:583–592PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Ruzic A (1977) Study of the population dynamics of common hamster (Cricetus cricetus L.) in Vojvodina. Plant Protection (Beograd) 28:289–300Google Scholar
  29. Scott JM, Goble DD, Haines AM, Wiens JA, Neel MC (2010) Conservation-reliant species and the future of conservation. Conservation Letters 3:91–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Shogren J, Tschirhart J, Anderson T, Ando AW, Beissinger SR, Brookshire D, Brown GM Jr, Coursey D, Innes R, Meyer SM, Polasky S (1999) Why economics matters for endangered species protection. Conserv Biol 13:1257–1261CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. SM (2002a) Beschlussvornahme 312/2002. Mannheim city council decision document. Mannheim, GermanyGoogle Scholar
  32. SM (2002b) Beschlussvorlage Stadt Mannheim 125/2002. Mannheim, GermanyGoogle Scholar
  33. Smales I, Brown PB, Menkhorst PW, Holdsworth M, Holz P (2007) Contribution of captive management of orange-bellied parrots to the recovery programme for the species in Australia. International Zoo Yearbook 37:171–178Google Scholar
  34. Smith HG, Dänhardt J, Lindström Å, Rundlöf M (2010) Consequences of organic farming and landscape heterogeneity on species richness and abundance of farmland birds. Oecologia 162:1071–1079PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Soulé ME (ed) (1990) Viable populations for conservation. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UKGoogle Scholar
  36. Strange N, Thorsen BJ, Bladt J (2006) Optimal reserve selection in a dynamic world. Biol Conserv 131:33–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. SZ (2007) Die Baustopper. Sueddeutsche Zeitung. München, Germany 19 OctoberGoogle Scholar
  38. Tilman D, May RM, Lehman CL, Nowak MA (1994) Habitat destruction and the extinction debt. Nature 371(6492):65–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Traill LW, Bradshaw JA, Brook BW (2007) Minimum viable population size: a meta-analysis of 30 years of published estimates. Biol Conserv 139:159–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Tscharntke T, Klein AM, Kruess A, Steffen-Dewnter I, Thies C (2005) Land perspectives on agricultural intensification and biodiversity–ecosystem service management. Ecol Lett 8:857–874CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Ulbrich K, Kayser A (2004) A risk analysis of the common hamster Cricetus cricetus. Biol Conserv 117:263–270CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Wätzold F, Schwerdtner K (2005) Why be wasteful when preserving a valuable resource? A review article on the cost-effectiveness of European biodiversity conservation policy. Biol Conserv 123:327–338CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Wätzold F, Drechsler M, Armstrong CW, Baumgärtner S, Grimm V, Huth A, Perrings C, Possingham HP, Shogren JF, Skonhoft A, Verboom-Vasiljev J, Wissel C (2006) Ecological-economic modeling for biodiversity management: potential, pitfalls, prospects. Conserv Biol 20:1034–1041PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Weinhold U, Kayser A (2006) Der Feldhamster. Die neue Brehm-Bücherei, Hohenwarsleben, GermanyGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin Drechsler
    • 1
    Email author
  • Florian V. Eppink
    • 2
  • Frank Wätzold
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Ecological ModellingHelmholtz Centre for Environmental ResearchLeipzigGermany
  2. 2.Department of Computational Landscape EcologyHelmholtz Centre for Environmental ResearchLeipzigGermany
  3. 3.Faculty of Environmental Sciences and Process EngineeringBrandenburg Technical University of CottbusCottbusGermany

Personalised recommendations