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Optimising the trade-offs between biodiversity value and human value

Final Activity Report Summary - HUMAN-BIOD TRADEOFFS (Optimising the trade-offs between biodiversity value and human value)

The main aim of this project was to advance knowledge on the trade-offs between biodiversity conservation and value development. It investigated the shape of this relationship, and how it is affected by the units employed to measure human and biodiversity values, and the spatial implications of these trade-offs.

The project investigated the shape of the relationship between biodiversity and human development, both from a conceptual perspective and by exploring different case-studies. The spatial implications of these trade-offs were investigated at scales ranging from the entire Brazilian Amazon to the neighbourhood of individual protected areas. The project has furthermore contributed to advancing the field of conservation science, with an emphasis on the global scale, by investigating approaches for measuring conservation effectiveness, by highlighting key conservation challenges and actions, and by contributing with developments for conservation planning. Throughout, the project was at the interface between conservation science and socio-economic sciences.

The main analysis within this project was an evaluation of trade-offs between human development and biodiversity conservation in the Amazonian deforestation frontier. The Amazon is globally renowned for its biodiversity value and for its influence in climate regulation and geochemical cycles. Within Brazil, however, it is also renowned for being one of the country's poorest regions. Economic development is typically pursued - often with active government encouragement - through conversion of forest for agriculture and cattle-ranching, mediated by logging. I investigated whether such path brings lasting prosperity by using data on nearly 300 municipalities to analyse how the human development index varies across the deforestation frontier. I found a boom-and-bust trajectory: relative development increases as deforestation begins, but then declines again as the frontier passes through.

As a result, pre- and post-frontier levels of development are similarly low. I found the same trajectory for each of the separate components of the human development index: life expectancy, literacy, and standard of living. This study is one of the largest quantitative tests to date of the trade-offs between economic development and nature conservation, and has potentially profound implications for managing the worlds' largest rainforest, highlighting the need for alternative development strategies.