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Accounting for the cost of conservation is necessary to help save species

A lack of accurate and consistent estimates of the cost of conservation interventions has been hindering conservation decisions, both at local and international scales.

A team of leading researchers has taken action towards resolving this problem to improve conservation practice and help save species.

Scientists from CEED and 18 other organisations have designed a standardised approach to reporting the costs of conservation interventions.

“We live in a world of limited financial resources, and this is especially true for conservation,” says lead author Dr Gwen Iacona.
“Interventions that effectively conserve biodiversity need to be able to achieve the biggest benefit within the limits of their funding.”

The new standards call for conservation researchers, managers and practitioners to describe critical aspects of reported conservation costs, including the objective and outcome, context and methods, as well as scale of costs, dates and currencies.

The aim is to enable conservation projects to deliver enough contextual and financial information for future users to interpret the cost data accurately so they can transfer the understanding of how much a conservation project costs to studies and other similar projects.

“Different organisations approach conservation interventions in different ways and have different outcomes,” says Dr Iacona.
“But estimating how much a conservation project costs an organization is difficult. These estimates are critical for conservation decision makers because in order to identify the best way to solve a conservation problem, we have to be able to compare the benefits of different conservation actions and how much they would cost to implement,”
“A standardised costings approach allows for relevant comparison of different interventions, which then improves the effectiveness of conservation planning.”
The team of 19 researchers recommends these standards be adopted by conservation organisations, science institutions, and journals, to ensure cost reporting is comparable across studies.

The five recommended reporting standards ask conservation scientists and practitioners to include the following information whenever cost data are reported for a conservation intervention:

  1. State the objective and outcome of the costed intervention.
  2. Define the context and method of the intervention.
  3. State when, where, and at what scale interventions were implemented.
  4. State which of the following categories of costs are included: labour, capital assets and equipment, and overhead.
  5. state currency and date for which costs were incurred
An example of standardised cost reporting

The researchers have provided a worksheet that can be used to streamline reporting of costs according to the standards. Ultimately, they plan to work with the conservation-effectiveness community to spearhead the creation of a database of standardised conservation costs, similar to the Conservation Evidence database.

Dr Iacona says improving the knowledge of the cost of conservation could allow us to answer the big questions like...

“how much would it cost to save all species?’”

For more information: Dr Gwen Iacona, g.iacona@uq.edu.au. Media: CEED Communications, Casey Fung, +61 433 638 643.

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Created with images by Isabella Jusková - "“I am sunlight slicing the dark”" • maikebieber - "elephant baby feeding milk bottle ranger nairobi" • David Clode - "Oxpeckers on a rhino"

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