Economic prosperity, biodiversity conservation, and the environmental Kuznets curve
Many conservationists contend that economic growth and biodiversity conservation are incompatible goals. Some economists contest this viewpoint, arguing that wealthier countries have the luxury of investing more heavily in efforts to conserve biodiversity. Under this assumption, we expect a U-shaped relationship between per capita wealth and proportion of species conserved. We test this environmental Kuznets curve (EKC) using estimates of per capita income and deforestation rates (index of biodiversity threat) for 35 tropical countries. A prior analysis [Dietz, S., Adger, W.N., 2003. Economic growth, biodiversity loss and conservation effort. Journal of Environmental Management, 68:23-35] using conventional regression techniques failed to provide any support for the parabolic relationship predicted by the EKC hypothesis. Here, we introduce the use of quantile regression and spatial filtering to reanalyze this data, addressing issues of heteroskedasticity and spatial autocorrelation. We note that preliminary analysis using these methods provides some initial evidence for an EKC. However, a series of panel analyses with country-specific dummy variables eliminated or even reversed much of this support. A closer examination of conservation practices and environmental indicators within the countries, particularly those countries that drove our initial support, suggests that wealth is not a reliable indicator of improved conservation practice. Our findings indicate that an EKC for biodiversity is overly simplistic and further exploration is required to fully understand the mechanisms by which income affects biodiversity.
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