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Public Choice of Species for the Ark: Phylogenetic Similarity and Preferred Wildlife Species for Survival


  • Tisdell, Clement A.
  • Wilson, Clevo
  • Swarna Nantha, Hemanath


Humans play a role in deciding which species are preserved and which will perish in the current extinction wave. Because of the Similarity Principle, physical attractiveness and likeability, it is argued that public choice would greatly favour the survival of higher-order species at the expense of others. This paper empirically tests this argument by considering a hypothetical ‘Ark’ situation. Results are drawn from surveys of 204 members of the Australian public who were asked whether they are in favour of the survival of each of 24 native mammal, bird and reptile species. The species were ranked by percentage of ‘yes’ votes received. Species composition in various fractions of the ranking was determined. If the Similarity Principle holds, mammals would rank highly and dominate the top fractions of animals in the hierarchical list that would be saved (i.e., taken on the ‘Ark’). We find that although mammals would be over-represented in the ‘Ark’, birds and reptiles would also be well represented when social choice is based on numbers ‘voting’ for the survival of each species. Differences in public support for species in the relevant taxa are not as statistically significant as one might expect from the Similarity Principle.

Suggested Citation

  • Tisdell, Clement A. & Wilson, Clevo & Swarna Nantha, Hemanath, 2005. "Public Choice of Species for the Ark: Phylogenetic Similarity and Preferred Wildlife Species for Survival," Economics, Ecology and Environment Working Papers 54349, University of Queensland, School of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:uqseee:54349

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Andrew Metrick & Martin L. Weitzman, 1996. "Patterns of Behavior in Endangered Species Preservation," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 72(1), pages 1-16.
    2. Andrew Metrick & Martin L. Weitzman, 1998. "Conflicts and Choices in Biodiversity Preservation," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(3), pages 21-34, Summer.
    3. Tisdell, Clem, 1990. "Economics and the debate about preservation of species, crop varieties and genetic diversity," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 77-90, April.
    4. Ajzen, Icek & Brown, Thomas C. & Rosenthal, Lori H., 1996. "Information Bias in Contingent Valuation: Effects of Personal Relevance, Quality of Information, and Motivational Orientation," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 43-57, January.
    5. Spash, Clive L., 2002. "Informing and forming preferences in environmental valuation: Coral reef biodiversity," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 23(5), pages 665-687, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Tisdell, Clement A., 2008. "BEHAVIOURS OF CONSERVATION ORGANIZATIONS AND THEIR ENVIRONMENTAL IMPLICATIONS. Analysis based on New (and not so new) Institutional Economics," Institutional Change in Agriculture and Natural Resources Discussion Papers 6185, Humboldt University Berlin, Department of Agricultural Economics.
    2. Tisdell, Clement A., 2007. "Institutional Economics and the Behaviour of Conservation Organizations: Implications for Biodiversity Conservation," Economics, Ecology and Environment Working Papers 55099, University of Queensland, School of Economics.

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    Environmental Economics and Policy;


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