Are investments to promote biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services aligned?

Stephen Polasky, Kris Johnson, Bonnie L Keeler, Kent Kovacs, Erik Nelson, Derric Pennington, Andrew J. Plantinga, John Withey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


The conservation community is divided over the proper objective for conservation, with one faction focused on ecosystem services that contribute to human well-being and another faction focused on the intrinsic value of biodiversity. Despite the underlying difference in philosophy, it is not clear that this divide matters in a practical sense of guiding what a conservation organization should do in terms of investing in conservation. In this paper we address the degree of alignment between ecosystem services and biodiversity conservation strategies, using data from the state of Minnesota, USA. Minnesota voters recently passed an initiative that provides approximately $171m annually in dedicated funding for conservation. We find a high degree of alignment between investing conservation funds to target the value of ecosystem services and investing them to target biodiversity conservation. Targeting one of these two objectives generates 47-70 per cent of the maximum score of the other objective. We also find that benefits of conservation far exceed the costs, with a return on investment of between 2 to 1 and 3 to 1 in our base-case analysis. In general, investing in conservation to increase the value of ecosystem services is also beneficial for biodiversity conservation, and vice-versa..

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbergrs011
Pages (from-to)139-163
Number of pages25
JournalOxford Review of Economic Policy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
*University of Minnesota, e-mail:;; **The Nature Conservancy, e-mail: ***Bowdoin College, e-mail: ****World Wildlife Fund, e-mail: *****Oregon State University, e-mail: ******Florida International University, e-mail: We thank the editors and an anonymous referee for helpful comments. We acknowledge support from the National Science Foundation Collaborative Research Grant 0814628 on ‘Integrated dynamic modeling of ecosystem services, incentive-based policies, land-use decisions, and ecological outcomes’. doi:10.1093/oxrep/grs011 © The Authors 2012. Published by Oxford University Press. For permissions please e-mail:


  • Biodiversity
  • Carbon sequestration
  • Conservation
  • Ecosystem services
  • Land use
  • Water quality

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Are investments to promote biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services aligned?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this