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Systematic nature positive markets

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

E-pub ahead of print
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>5/02/2024
<mark>Journal</mark>Conservation Biology
Publication StatusE-pub ahead of print
Early online date5/02/24
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Environmental markets are a rapidly emerging tool to mobilize private funding to incentivize landholders to undertake more sustainable land management. How units of biodiversity in these markets are measured and subsequently traded creates key challenges ecologically and economically because it determines whether environmental markets can deliver net gains in biodiversity and efficiently lower the costs of conservation. We developed and tested a metric for such markets based on the well‐established principle of irreplaceability from systematic conservation planning. Irreplaceability as a metric avoids the limitations of like‐for‐like trading and allows one to capture the multidimensional nature of ecosystems (e.g., habitats, species, ecosystem functioning) and simultaneously achieve cost‐effective, land‐manager‐led investments in conservation. Using an integrated ecological modeling approach, we tested whether using irreplaceability as a metric is more ecologically and economically beneficial than the simpler biodiversity offset metrics typically used in net gain and no‐net‐loss policies. Using irreplaceability ensured no net loss, or even net gain, of biodiversity depending on the targets chosen. Other metrics did not provide the same assurances and, depending on the flexibility with which biodiversity targets can be achieved, and how they overlap with development pressure, were less efficient. Irreplaceability reduced the costs of offsetting to developers and the costs of ecological restoration to society. Integrating economic data and systematic conservation planning approaches would therefore assure land managers they were being fairly rewarded for the opportunity costs of conservation and transparently incentivize the most ecologically and economically efficient investments in nature recovery.