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Patterns of behavior in biodiversity preservation

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  • Metrick, Andrew
  • Weitzman, Martin L.

Abstract

Conservation budgets are limited, so it is right to ask of biodiversity programs, What should be preserved? How much should be preserved? Where? Recent papers on optimal preservation policy have tried to integrate three considerations: the relative uniqueness of different species or habitats, the degree of risk to their continued survival, and the opportunity cost of the resources needed to enhance their prospects for survival. It is natural to ask, How are we doing? Have biodiversity conservation resources been optimally allocated? What determines government decisions about the preservation of endangered species? The authors submit the first report card, an empirical analysis of U.S. species preservation policy, the best-documented country experience currently available. The authors discuss the most common normative justifications for biodiversity preservation and identify measurable proxies for a subset of those justifications. Proxies include"scientific"species characteristics, such as"degree of endangerment"and"taxonomic uniqueness,"as well as"visceral"characteristics, such as physical size and to what extent a species is considered a"higher form of life."They find that both kindsof characteristics, but especially"visceral"characteristics, influence government decisions on whether to protect a species under the Endangered Species Act. The authors find that"visceral"characteristics- especially physical size and taxonomic class - are also important in explaining how much is spent on endangered species. Perhaps more surprising is their finding that more is spent on animals with lower risk of extinction than on animals with a higher risk of extinction. The author's results are sobering. Many millions have been spent on species preservation, but neither uniqueness nor risk has weighed heavily in resource allocation. Instead there has been a heavy bias toward"charismatic megafauna"- large, well-known birds and mammals ("higher forms of life,"in the human value system). Other classes of fauna - including, say, eels or wild toads - and all flora, have gotten extremely short shrift. Prominent examples of species with high charisma, high attention, and relatively low endangerment are the bald eagle, the Florida scrub jay, and the grizzly bear. Other species may have less charisma but could have more scientific value or species risk.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 1358.

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Date of creation: 30 Sep 1994
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:1358

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Related research

Keywords: Wildlife Resources; Wetlands; Environmental Economics&Policies; Information Technology; Biodiversity;

References

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  1. Weitzman, Martin L, 1992. "On Diversity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 107(2), pages 363-405, May.
  2. Weitzman, Martin L, 1993. "What to Preserve? An Application of Diversity Theory to Crane Conservation?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 108(1), pages 157-83, February.
  3. Lacy Glenn Thomas, 1988. "Revealed Bureaucratic Preference: Priorities of the Consumer Product Safety Commission," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 19(1), pages 102-113, Spring.
  4. Cropper, Maureen L. & William N. Evans & Stephen J. Berard & Maria M. Ducla-Soares & Paul R. Portney, 1992. "The Determinants of Pesticide Regulation: A Statistical Analysis of EPA Decision Making," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(1), pages 175-97, February.
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Cited by:
  1. Jette Jacobsen & Nick Hanley, 2009. "Are There Income Effects on Global Willingness to Pay for Biodiversity Conservation?," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 43(2), pages 137-160, June.
  2. Garrod, G. D. & Willis, K. G., 1997. "The non-use benefits of enhancing forest biodiversity: A contingent ranking study," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 45-61, April.
  3. Jette Jacobsen & John Boiesen & Bo Thorsen & Niels Strange, 2008. "What’s in a name? The use of quantitative measures versus ‘Iconised’ species when valuing biodiversity," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 39(3), pages 247-263, March.

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