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The Optimal Design of Conservation Investments

Conservation Investment in Practice

Natural Resource Management

We work on a range of problems that examine how ecology and socioeconomic sciences can be integrated more effectively to inform conservation strategies. This work spans theoretical and empirical techniques and examines both biodiversity conservation and the management of ecosystem services. 

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We develop theoretical principles to inform conservation investment design. Some are intended to provoke discussion and critical thinking within the conservation community. Others are intended to inform policy and practice more directly. Focal questions for us here concern:
  • where should conservation investments be targeted?
  • what types of investment strategy work best in what ecological, social and economic context?
  • when investing in a particular site, how should population dynamics and ecosystem processes inform your conservation investment strategy?

Our recent work in this area has examined the relative effectiveness of full or partial (e.g., through easements) acquisition of land for conservation, leakage, informational asymmetries, and other issues of mechanism design as it relates to agrienvironment schemes.
sheep and heather
Key references and links:
  1. Armsworth, P.R., Acs, S., Dallimer, M., Gaston, K.J., Hanley, N.D. & Wilson, P. 2012. The cost of policy simplification in conservation incentive programs. Ecology Letters, 15, 406-414.
  2. Lennox, G., Dallimer, M. & Armsworth, P.R. 2012. Landowner’s ability to leverage in negotiations over habitat conservation. Theoretical Ecology, 5, 115-128.
  3. Eigenbrod, F., Bell, V., Davies, H., Heinemeyer, A., Armsworth, P.R. & Gaston, K.J. 2011. The impact of projected increases in urbanization on ecosystem services. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, B., 278, 3201-3208.
  4. Lennox, G.D. & Armsworth. P.R. 2011. Suitability of short or long conservation contracts under ecological and socio-economic uncertainty. Ecological Modeling, 222, 2856-2866.
  5. Moilanen, A., Anderson, B.J., Eigenbrod, F., Heinemeyer, A., Roy, D.B., Gillings, S., Armsworth, P.R., Gaston, K.J. & Thomas, C.D. 2011. Balancing alternative land uses in conservation prioritization. Ecological Applications, 21, 1419-1426.
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We are also building the evidence base regarding actual conservation investment practises on the ground. This work involves collaborators including local (e.g., Yorkshire Wildlife Trust) and global conservation NGOs (e.g., The Nature Conservancy) and a range of public agencies (e.g., Natural England).  Focal questions this time examine:
  • how much does conservation cost and how are those costs currently met by different organisations?
  • how effectively are existing conservation investments deployed given what we know about the distribution of biodiversity and ecosystem services?
  • what is the evidence that investing in conservation in a site improves the status of the species and ecosystems found there?
  • what is the evidence that investments improve the ecosystem services provided by a site?
Key references and links:
  1. Armsworth, P.R., Fishburn, I.S., Davies, Z.G., Gilbert, J., Leaver, N. & Gaston, K.J. 2012. The size, concentration and growth of biodiversity conservation nonprofits. BioScience, 62, 271-281.
  2. Dallimer, M., Irvine, K., Skinner, A., Rouquette, J., Davies, Z.G, Armsworth P.R., Maltby, L.M., Warren, P., & Gaston, K.J. 2012. Biodiversity and the feel-good factor: understanding relationships between human well-being and nature. BioScience, 62, 47-55.
  3. Armsworth, P.R., Cantu-Salazar, L., Parnell, M., Davies, Z.G. & Stoneman, R. 2011. Management costs for small protected areas and economies of scale in habitat conservation. Biological Conservation, 141, 423-429.
  4. Holland, R.A., Eigenbrod, F., Armsworth, P.R., Anderson, B.J., Thomas, C.D., Heinemeyer, A., Gillings, S., Roy, D.B. & Gaston, K.J. 2011. Spatial covariation between terrestrial and freshwater ecosystem services. Ecological Applications, 21, 2034-2048.
  5. Dallimer, M., Gaston K.J., Skinner, A.M.J., Hanley, N., Acs, S. & Armsworth, P.R. 2010. Field-level bird abundances are enhanced by landscape-scale agri-environment scheme uptake. Biology Letters, 6, 643-646.
  6. Davies, Z.G., Kareiva, P. & Armsworth, P.R. 2010. Temporal patterns in the size of conservation land transactions. Conservation Letters, 3, 29-37.
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Questions in fisheries management provide one of the topic areas where the integration of ecology and economics is arguably most established. Again, we maintain active interests in this area. In particular, a number of current projects focus on the design of spatial management techniques (marine reserves and time-area closures) for managing harvesting pressure.
Key reference and links:
  1. Armsworth, P.R., Block, B., Eagle, J. & Roughgarden, J.E. 2011. The role of discounting and dynamics in determining the economic efficiency of time-area closures. Theoretical Ecology, 4, 513-526.
  2. Armsworth, P.R., Block, B.A., Eagle, J. & Roughgarden, J.E. 2010. The economic efficiency of a time-area closure to protect spawning bluefin tuna. Journal of Applied Ecology47, 36–46.
  3. Hartman, K., Bode, L. & Armsworth, P. 2007. The economic optimality of learning from marine protected areas. Australian & New Zealand Industrial and Applied Mathematics Journal, 48, C307-C329.
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