Optimal conservation investment for a biodiversity-rich agricultural landscape


  • Ben White,

  • Rohan Sadler

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    • Ben White (email: benedict.white@uwa.edu.au) is a Professor and Rohan Sadler is an Assistant Professor Research in the School of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Hwy, Crawley WA6009, Western Australia.

  • The authors wish to thank two anonymous reviewers and the journal associate editor for helpful comments and suggestions. Over a period of 7 years through MBI project 1 and MBI project 2 this work benefited from inputs from a large number of people in particular Michael Burton of UWA, Kirsten Williams of CSIRO and Cheryl Gole of WWF. DAFF funding of this research is acknowledged.


This study develops a theoretical and empirical framework for optimal conservation planning using satellite land cover data and economic data from a farm survey. A case study is presented for a region within the South-west Australia Biodiversity Hotspot (Nature 403, 853). This Biodiversity Hotspot is a focus for conservation investment as it combines a relatively high level of biodiversity with severe threat to the biodiversity from agriculture. The conservation planning model developed determines the optimal set of bush fragments for conservation. This model can also be used to assess the trade-off between the budget and a vegetation species metric. Results from the case study show that, without an effective conservation scheme that at least fences fragments, significant plant biodiversity losses will occur in the North East Wheatbelt Regional Organisation of Councils region of the WA wheatbelt over a 10-year period. A perfect price discriminating auction scheme could reduce the costs of conservation by around 17 per cent relative to a fixed-payment scheme; however, a fixed payment on outcome (measured as change in the species metric) scheme represents a viable second-best alternative, to a conservation auction, where conservation spending is spatially targeted.