The authors David P. Edwards and Brendan Fisher contributed equally to this article.
High Conservation Value or high confusion value? Sustainable agriculture and biodiversity conservation in the tropics
Article first published online: 29 NOV 2011
Copyright and Photocopying: ©2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Volume 5, Issue 1, pages 20–27, January 2012
How to Cite
Edwards, D. P., Fisher, B. and Wilcove, D. S. (2012), High Conservation Value or high confusion value? Sustainable agriculture and biodiversity conservation in the tropics. Conservation Letters, 5: 20–27. doi: 10.1111/j.1755-263X.2011.00209.x
Editor William Sutherland
- Issue published online: 26 JAN 2012
- Article first published online: 29 NOV 2011
- Accepted manuscript online: 4 NOV 2011 03:27AM EST
- Received 10 July 2011 Accepted 17 October 2011
- Agricultural conversion;
- green labeling;
- land-use planning;
- sustainable agriculture
Green labeling of products that have been produced sustainably is an emerging tool of the environmental movement. A prominent example is the Forest Stewardship Council, which certifies timber that is harvested to manage and maintain forests defined as having High Conservation Value (HCV). The criteria for HCV are now being applied to four rapidly expanding crops in the tropics: oil palm, soy, sugarcane, and cacao. However, these criteria do not provide adequate protection for biodiversity when applied to agriculture. The only criterion that provides blanket protection to forests is one that protects large expanses of habitat (≥20,000–500,000 ha, depending on the country). Absent of other HCVs, the collective clearing of forest patches below these thresholds could result in extensive deforestation that would be sanctioned with a green label. Yet such forest patches retain much biodiversity and provide connectivity within the agricultural matrix. An examination of forest fragments in biodiverse countries across the tropics shows that future agricultural demand can be met by clearing only forest patches below a 1,000 ha threshold. We recommend the development of a new HCV criterion that recognizes the conservation value of habitat patches within the agricultural matrix and that protects patches above 1,000 ha.