Chapter 12: Allocating land use to minimize the opportunity cost of conserving wild species in their natural habitats
It was argued in the previous chapter that constrained economic optimization problems are often relevant in formulating policy solutions for biodiversity conservation as well as for decision-making about protecting particular or selected sets of wild species and portions of ecosystems. An example of this problem for a particular wildlife species is as follows: find a contiguous natural area of a size which (if protected) will minimize the opportunity cost of sustaining the minimum viable population of the focal species or some other specified (targeted) level of population of this species. This is the type of policy problem given most attention in this chapter.In practice, both the biological objectives to be pursued in these types of policy choices may be politically prescribed as well as the types of opportunity costs to be taken into account. Although, from an idealistic point of view, social opportunity costs should be considered, government policy may be based on a narrower perception of opportunity costs. For example, a government may be mainly concerned about the private opportunity costs imposed by conservation decisions on particular economic groups, for example, farmers or foresters, or in some countries, those wanting to establish oil-palm plantations. The solutions to such problems are not self-evident even though these problems all have a similar mathematical structure. That these solutions are not self-evident, is underlined by the fact that in the ecological literature, recommendations for reserving different types of land for conservation have been based on comparisons of either the absolute economic returns they...
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