Advertisement

Funding begets biodiversity

Authors

  • Antje Ahrends,

    Corresponding author
    1. Environment Department, University of York, York YO105DD, UK
    2. Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 20A Inverleith Row, Edinburgh EH3 5LR, UK
      Antje Ahrends, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 20A Inverleith Row, Edinburgh EH3 5LR, UK.
      E-mail: aahrends@rbge.ac.uk
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Neil D. Burgess,

    1. Zoology Department, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 3EJ, UK
    2. WWF US, 1250 24th St NW, Washington, DC, USA
    3. Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate, Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen, Universitetsparken 15, DK-2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Roy E. Gereau,

    1. Missouri Botanical Garden, PO Box 299, St. Louis, MO 63166-0299, USA
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Rob Marchant,

    1. Environment Department, University of York, York YO105DD, UK
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Mark T. Bulling,

    1. Oceanlab, University of Aberdeen, Newburgh, Aberdeenshire, Aberdeen AB41 6AA, UK
    2. Department of Biology, Forensics and Sport, University of Derby, Derby DE22 1GB, UK
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Jon C. Lovett,

    1. Twente Centre for Studies in Technology and Sustainable Development, University of Twente, PO Box 217, 7500 Enschede, The Netherlands
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Philip J. Platts,

    1. Environment Department, University of York, York YO105DD, UK
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Victoria Wilkins Kindemba,

    1. The Society for Environmental Exploration (Frontier), 50-52 Rivington Street, London EC2A 3QP, UK
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Nisha Owen,

    1. The Society for Environmental Exploration (Frontier), 50-52 Rivington Street, London EC2A 3QP, UK
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Eibleis Fanning,

    1. The Society for Environmental Exploration (Frontier), 50-52 Rivington Street, London EC2A 3QP, UK
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Carsten Rahbek

    1. Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate, Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen, Universitetsparken 15, DK-2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark
    Search for more papers by this author

Antje Ahrends, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 20A Inverleith Row, Edinburgh EH3 5LR, UK.
E-mail: aahrends@rbge.ac.uk

Abstract

Aim  Effective conservation of biodiversity relies on an unbiased knowledge of its distribution. Conservation priority assessments are typically based on the levels of species richness, endemism and threat. Areas identified as important receive the majority of conservation investments, often facilitating further research that results in more species discoveries. Here, we test whether there is circularity between funding and perceived biodiversity, which may reinforce the conservation status of areas already perceived to be important while other areas with less initial funding may remain overlooked.

Location  Eastern Arc Mountains, Tanzania.

Methods  We analysed time series data (1980–2007) of funding (= 134 projects) and plant species records (= 75,631) from a newly compiled database. Perceived plant diversity, over three decades, is regressed against funding and environmental factors, and variances decomposed in partial regressions. Cross-correlations are used to assess whether perceived biodiversity drives funding or vice versa.

Results  Funding explained 65% of variation in perceived biodiversity patterns – six times more variation than accounted for by 34 candidate environmental factors. Cross-correlation analysis showed that funding is likely to be driving conservation priorities and not vice versa. It was also apparent that investment itself may trigger further investments as a result of reduced start-up costs for new projects in areas where infrastructure already exists. It is therefore difficult to establish whether funding, perceived biodiversity, or both drive further funding. However, in all cases, the results suggest that regional assessments of biodiversity conservation importance may be biased by investment. Funding effects might also confound studies on mechanisms of species richness patterns.

Main conclusions  Continued biodiversity loss commands urgent conservation action even if our knowledge of its whereabouts is incomplete; however, by concentrating inventory funds in areas already perceived as important in terms of biodiversity and/or where start-up costs are lower, we risk losing other areas of underestimated or unknown value.

Ancillary