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Prevent Extinction For Only $11 Per Person A Year

A new study puts a dollar amount on the cost of preventing the extinction of threatened species, using birds as a model.

By Jessica Pineda
Posted: October 26, 2012, 12:45 p.m. PST

Blue-throated Macaw
By Gina Cioli/BowTie Inc./Courtesy Joe Stupor
The blue-throated macaw is critically endangered. BirdLife estimates there are only 73 to 87 adults in the wild.
Eighty billion dollars annually, or $11 per person a year, could prevent all future extinctions, according to a recent study in Science Magazine. The study, called “Financial Costs of Meeting Global Biodiversity Conservation Targets: Current Spending and Unmet Needs” puts a numerical value on the cost of preventing the extinction of threatened species, as well as protecting and managing the habitats where these species live.

The authors of the study, Donal P. McCarthy and Paul F. Donald, are members of BirdLife International and The Royal Society of the Protection of Birds (RSPB), and used bird data to calculate their numbers. As a group, birds, including parrots, are one of the most well-known and well-studied animals, so the researchers calculated the costs of protecting and managing the birds currently threatened (197 of which are critically endangered). They estimated it would cost $880 billion to $1.23 billion per year for the next 10 years. From there, the researchers included all other known threatened species, estimating that it would cost $4 billion annually to protect the species at risk, with $76 billion to protect and manage habitats.

To figure out what habitats would need protection, the researchers used BirdLife’s “Important Bird Areas.” According to the BirdLife website, the Important Bird Areas are 11,731 sites around the world that are important to preserve biodiversity. The researchers said it wouldn’t take much to cover and manage the other species that live within that area. Currently, only 28 percent of the sites listed are effectively protected and managed, costing $7.2 billion. To cover the rest of the sites, it would cost an addition $50.6 billion, according to the study.

The study has already started to make an impact. “The information from the study was used by my colleagues and others at the Convention on Biological Diversity meetings in India,” said Dr. Stuart Butchart, global research and indicators coordinator for BirdLife. The Convention on Biological Diversity is a treaty between 192 participating countries that develop national strategies for the conservation and sustainable use of biological resources. The latest meeting was held throughout the month of October. “[The study] was influential in shaping the government negotiations,” Butchart said. The Convention on Biological Diversity agreed to provide more money to help support conservation in developed and developing countries.

The $80 billion is a small amount of money to help protect species from extinction, according to BirdLife, calculating it breaks down to $11 per person. The organization pointed out that amount is 20 percent of the worldwide consumer spending on soft drinks. Despite the relatively low dollar figure, Butchart said governments could hinder conservation efforts. “There are many pressures on governments, and they don’t always make decisions that properly take into account the importance of biodiversity and the many benefits it provides us,” Butchart said. “That’s why we need to constantly remind them not to take shortsighted views.”

Butchart noted that parrot species at risk suffer from lack of funding too. “We estimated that the kakapo needs about $1 million a year, but receives only two-thirds of this,” Butchart said, “While the Socorro parakeet [Socorro conure] in Mexico needs about half a million dollars a year, but receives only one tenth of this.”

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Prevent Extinction For Only $11 Per Person A Year

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Reader Comments
Interesting story
john, brooklyn, NY
Posted: 10/28/2012 10:09:49 PM
Thanks
james, brooklyn, NY
Posted: 10/28/2012 9:55:55 PM
Interesting
n, n, TN
Posted: 10/28/2012 8:44:17 AM
Thanks
Melinda, westchester, NY
Posted: 10/27/2012 8:28:05 PM
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