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The Challenge of Biodiversity: Protecting Nature from Human Intervention

Resources Issue 168, Spring 2008

Nature thrives because of biological diversity, and ecologists and conservation experts are increasingly recognizing the importance of protecting diversity at the three key levels—individual species, genetic variations, and entire ecosystems. Many commodities essential to human well-being—such as food, fiber, wood, and pharmaceutical products—are continually supplemented by natural diversity.

Robust biodiversity contributes to enhanced productivity, stability, and resiliency in everything from farmlands to wetlands. But human activities that result in habitat destruction, including the introduction of invasive species and increasingly, climate change, may be driving substantial diversity loss and even outright extinctions.

There is growing consensus on the value of safeguarding the nation’s natural biological heritage. However, in determining an appropriate long-term policy to preserve biodiversity in the natural world, it is clear that economic and ecological tradeoffs will be unavoidable. RFF Fellow Juha Siikamäki discusses how information gleaned from economic cost-effectiveness analysis can help decisionmakers identify practical biodiversity conservation choices. Examining alternative management strategies for multiple-use areas and understanding the drivers of land-use change and landowner preference, Siikamäki notes, can inform policy decisions toward feasible and efficient approaches to protecting biodiversity.

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