Buying and selling habitats may help save wildlife in the long-term

November 14th, 2007 - 2:12 am ICT by admin  
According to these researchers from Britain, The Netherlands and Germany, tradable permits are becoming a fashionable part of global environmental policy, and so far, their application has met with measured success in the case of cultural landscapes like farmland.

The European Commission has now expressed an interest in using tradable permits for wildlife conservation, in a recent green paper on market instruments in environmental policy.

The paper calls it habitat banking. The idea is that each region sets a target for how much land it wants to keep for wildlife conservation, then leaves it up to the free market to find the most cost-effective way of doing it.

If a developer wants to destroy valuable habitat, he or she has to purchase a permit to do so, from someone who has created a piece of valuable habitat elsewhere.

European law requires developers who destroy valuable habitat to recreate something equivalent elsewhere. ut according to Florian Hartig, a researcher from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) in Germany, using tradable permits is more flexible.

“The current mitigation policy is very strict. Flexible instruments can help allocating mitigation where it is most effective,” he says.

With habitat banking, landowners who upgrade their land for wildlife get an immediate financial gain.

And it would be possible for those with an interest in conservation to stockpile permits and not sell them, increasing the conservation value of the region perhaps even above the target.

European ecologists and economists are studying how such a market could work in theory.

They presented their work last week at the European Science Foundation’s (ESF) first EuroDIVERSITY conference.

They said that a problem that immediately surfaced from an ecological perspective was that the value of one piece of wildlife habitat partly depends on how near it is to other pieces of wildlife habitat.

This problem, they said, could be surmounted by building a measure of connectivity into the ecological value of each piece of land.

Many ecologists felt it would be difficult to give a piece of land a single ecological value.

“The best sites for birds are not always the best for plants, or microbes,” one argued. The researchers admit the evaluation process will be complex.

The biggest advantage of habitat banking is cheaper conservation, according to Frank W

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