Research Article: Building a stakeholder-led common vision increases the expected cost-effectiveness of biodiversity conservation

Date Published: June 13, 2019

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Rocío Ponce Reyes, Jennifer Firn, Sam Nicol, Iadine Chadès, Danial S. Stratford, Tara G. Martin, Stuart Whitten, Josie Carwardine, Judi Hewitt.


Uniting diverse stakeholders through communication, education or building a collaborative ‘common vision’ for biodiversity management is a recommended approach for enabling effective conservation in regions with multiple uses. However, socially focused strategies such as building a collaborative vision can require sharing scarce resources (time and financial resources) with the on-ground management actions needed to achieve conservation outcomes. Here we adapt current prioritisation tools to predict the likely return on the financial investment of building a stakeholder-led vision along with a portfolio of on-ground management strategies. Our approach brings together and analyses expert knowledge to estimate the cost-effectiveness of a common vision strategy and on-ground management strategies, before any investments in these strategies are made. We test our approach in an intensively-used Australian biodiversity hotspot with 179 threatened or at-risk species. Experts predicted that an effective stakeholder vision for the region would have a relatively low cost and would significantly increase the feasibility of on-ground management strategies. As a result, our analysis indicates that a common vision is likely to be a cost-effective investment, increasing the expected persistence of threatened species in the region by 9 to 52%, depending upon the strategies implemented. Our approach can provide the maximum budget that is worth investing in building a common vision or another socially focused strategy for building support for on-ground conservation actions. The approach can assist with decisions about whether and how to allocate scarce resources amongst social and ecological actions for biodiversity conservation in other regions worldwide.

Partial Text

More than 75% of the planet’s terrestrial ecosystems have been altered by human activities since the industrial revolution [1]. Today, remnant high conservation value ecosystems are embedded in mosaics of different land-uses and the number of species threatened with extinction is accelerating [2, 3]. Finding solutions to avoid further losses of ecosystems and native species is more difficult in regions with multiple land-use activities because challenges such as insufficient ongoing resources for long-term management implementation, local stakeholders not supporting top-down management decisions, inadequate information for making management decisions and conflicts between land-use for development, production and nature conservation may be more acute [4–6].

Our study demonstrates how expert estimates of increased feasibility can be used to rapidly forecast the return on investment of uniting stakeholders with divergent goals through the development of a common vision. Previous studies quantify the improved effectiveness of stakeholder cooperation retrospectively [20], finding that stakeholder cooperation has improved conservation outcomes [17–19]. Our approach is the first to provide a quantitative estimate of whether these improved outcomes are worth the cost expended, which helps to clarify the value for money of building a common vision or a similar action that has indirect benefits to biodiversity.