• Open Access

Diminishing return on investment for biodiversity data in conservation planning

Authors

  • Hedley S. Grantham,

    1. The Ecology Centre, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia
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  • Atte Moilanen,

    1. Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 65 (Biocentre III), Helsinki 00014, Finland
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  • Kerrie A. Wilson,

    1. The Ecology Centre, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia
    2. The Nature Conservancy, Australia Program Office, Suite 3.04, The 60L Green Building, 60 Leicester Street, Carlton, Melbourne, Victoria 3053, Australia
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  • Robert L. Pressey,

    1. The Ecology Centre, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia
    2. Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia
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  • Tony G. Rebelo,

    1. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Private Bag X101, Pretoria 0001, South Africa
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  • Hugh P. Possingham

    1. The Ecology Centre, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia
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Correspondence
Hedley S. Grantham, The Ecology Centre, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia. Tel: +61 (0) 7 3365 2527. E-mail: h.grantham@uq.edu.au

Abstract

It is generally assumed that gathering more data is a good investment for conservation planning. However, the benefits of additional data have seldom been evaluated by analyzing the return on investment. If there are diminishing returns in terms of improved planning, then resources might be better directed toward other actions, depending on their relative costs and benefits. Our aim was to determine the return on investment from spending different amounts on survey data before undertaking a program of implementing new protected areas. We estimated how much protea data is obtained as a function of dollars invested in surveying. We then simulated incremental protection and loss of habitat to determine the benefit of investment in that data on the protection of proteas. We found that, after an investment of only US$100,000 (∼780,000 South Africa Rand [ZAR]), there was little increase in the effectiveness of conservation prioritizations, despite the full data set costing at least 25 times that amount.

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