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Proc Biol Sci. 2009 Aug 22;276(1669):2903-11. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2009.0528. Epub 2009 May 27.

Ecosystem service benefits of contrasting conservation strategies in a human-dominated region.

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  • 1Biodiversity and Macroecology Group, Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK.


The hope among policy-makers and scientists alike is that conservation strategies designed to protect biodiversity also provide direct benefits to people by protecting other vital ecosystem services. The few studies that have examined the delivery of ecosystem services by existing conservation efforts have concentrated on large, 'wilderness'-style biodiversity reserves. However, such reserves are not realistic options for densely populated regions. Here, we provide the first analyses that compare representation of biodiversity and three other ecosystem services across several contrasting conservation strategies in a human-dominated landscape (England). We show that small protected areas and protected landscapes (restrictive zoning) deliver high carbon storage and biodiversity, while existing incentive payment (agri-environment) schemes target areas that offer little advantage over other parts of England in terms of biodiversity, carbon storage and agricultural production. A fourth ecosystem service-recreation-is under-represented by all three strategies. Our findings are encouraging as they illustrate that restrictive zoning can play a major role in protecting natural capital assets in densely populated regions. However, trade-offs exist even among the four ecosystem services we considered, suggesting that a portfolio of conservation and sustainability investments will be needed to deliver both biodiversity and the other ecosystem services demanded by society.

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