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Buying and selling habitats to help wildlife
Date:10/12/2007

Tradable permits are all the rage in environmental policy. They are already used internationally to reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality. A group of economists and ecologists from the UK, the Netherlands and Germany, are working together to find out whether such schemes could work for wildlife too. So far, it looks promising, but probably only for cultural landscapes like farmland.

The European Commission expressed an interest in using tradable permits for wildlife conservation, in a recent green paper on market instruments in environmental policy. The paper calls it habitat banking. The idea is that each region sets a target for how much land it wants to keep for wildlife conservation, then leaves it up to the free market to find the most cost-effective way of doing it. If a developer wants to destroy valuable habitat, he or she has to purchase a permit to do so, from someone who has created a piece of valuable habitat elsewhere.

In some ways, habitat banking is similar to current policies of mitigation. European law requires developers who destroy valuable habitat to recreate something equivalent elsewhere. But according to Florian Hartig, a researcher from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) in Germany, using tradable permits is more flexible. The current mitigation policy is very strict, he says, Flexible instruments can help allocating mitigation where it is most effective.

With habitat banking, landowners who upgrade their land for wildlife get an immediate financial gain. And it would be possible for those with an interest in conservation to stockpile permits and not sell them, increasing the conservation value of the region perhaps even above the target.

A collaboration of European ecologists and economists is studying how such a market could work in theory. They presented their work last week at the European Science Foundations (ESF) first EuroDIVERSITY conference. One problem you quick
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Contact: Sofia Valleley
svalleley@esf.org
33-388-762-149
European Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert

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