Forms of biodiversity conservation payments

Here we will focus primarily on various forms of in situ conservation and distinguish between the outright purchase of resources versus periodical leasing or payments for environmental services. In general, outright purchases are appropriate for stimulating efforts that require a long-term investment or commitment, while leasing is more appropriate for measures that require a continuous incentive to maintain. Of course, economic, social, and political conditions will also be key determinants of the most appropriate form of conservation purchases. Outright purchases are more effective if the new buyer has the ability to enforce rules and control of the resources that they purchase. Several examples of this can be seen in wild biodiversity conservation, where environmental groups purchase the rights to a primary forest from a government. If these groups lack the means to control intrusions into it, and enforce the desired management regime, the program may be ineffective. If, instead they leased the forest for a certain time period, then the local government would have greater incentive to insist on proper conservation because of the future earnings at stake. In the context of agricultural biodiversity in situ conservation, outright purchases are not likely to be a widely used option. Conservation groups could purchase farmlands and cultivate diverse varieties; however, since in situ conservation involves conserving the interaction between human and natural pressures on genetic populations, it would be difficult to conserve the human side of the equation in what is essentially an artificial socioeconomic environment.

Leasing or periodical purchases of environmental services is more appropriate when a purchaser is interested in behavioral modifications of a given environment which require frequent (say, annual) activities on the part of the seller, or which are easily reversible. For example, if the objective is to have farmers maintain a diverse set of crop varieties in an evolutionary setting, a one-time fixed payment to farmers is not likely to be sufficient to ensure continuing participation of the farmers. Establishing a system where producers are paid according to their actual activities as they occur over time is likely to lead to better follow-up and a more effective result. In the case of in situ conservation of crop genetic diversity however, this type of payment system is difficult to implement, due to difficulties in establishing the value of maintaining any one variety in production. In addition, monitoring costs associated with such programs can be quite high. In many cases it may be more effective to fund complementary activities that support the preservation of crop varieties in the field, such as niche market development, participatory breeding programs, and so on.

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