Other ecologists in the audience were intrigued but sceptical. Many felt it would be difficult to give a piece of land a single ecological value. The best sites for birds are not always the best for plants, or microbes, one argued. The researchers admit the evaluation process will be complex.
The biggest advantage of habitat banking is cheaper conservation, according to Frank Wtzold, leader of the economic part of the team, at UFZ. Often conservation is extremely expensive when the same benefit could be gained much more cheaply elsewhere, he says. He is about to publish research showing that the conservation of the rare German hamster, Cricetus cricetus, could be achieved for much less money if it was done through agri-environment schemes rather than by restricting economic development.
Hartig says habitat banking can never replace permanent reserves. Obviously it doesnt work for habitats that cannot recover quickly, and take hundreds of years to develop, like old-growth forests, he says. But he believes it can complement reserves, in semi-natural landscapes, where species are adaptable and move into new spaces fast.
|Contact: Sofia Valleley|
European Science Foundation