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Study led by NUS scientists reveals escalating cost of forest conservation

In the face of unprecedented deforestation and biodiversity loss, policy makers are increasingly using financial incentives to encourage conservation.

However, a research team led by the National University of Singapore (NUS) revealed that in the long run, conservation incentives may struggle to compete with future agricultural yields.

Their findings were first published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on 15 April 2013.

Financial incentives for conservation

Incentives are being leveraged in dozens of tropical developing countries to conserve forests, to protect biodiversity and reduce carbon emissions from deforestation. This incentive-based approach is comparatively inexpensive, as low agricultural yields and widespread poverty often mean that relatively small incentives can motivate many landholders to protect their land for conservation.

As a result, this approach has become a leading climate change mitigation strategy adopted by the United Nations as policies for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation.

Costs of conservation in the long run

In a bid to assess the future viability of these types of conservation programmes, the team, comprising researchers from NUS, ETH Zurich and University of Cambridge, developed a framework and model that looked at the strategy's effectiveness in the context of intensified farming practices.

The researchers modeled conservation payments necessary to protect forests in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which has some of the largest remaining forests in the world. They found that a new agricultural intensification and conservation programme could double or triple cassava and maize yields by introducing disease-resistant plant varieties, increasing fertilizer use and improving farming practices.

Increased farm yields will bring dramatic benefits to DRC farmers, and c

Contact: Carolyn Fong
National University of Singapore

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