IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Patterns of behavior in biodiversity preservation


  • Metrick, Andrew
  • Weitzman, Martin L.


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Metrick, Andrew & Weitzman, Martin L., 1994. "Patterns of behavior in biodiversity preservation," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1358, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:1358

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Martin L. Weitzman, 1992. "On Diversity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(2), pages 363-405.
    2. Martin L. Weitzman, 1993. "What to Preserve? An Application of Diversity Theory to Crane Conservation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(1), pages 157-183.
    3. 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, vol. 100(1), pages 175-197, February.
    4. 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.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. 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.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:1358. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Roula I. Yazigi). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.