However, the researchers highlight how those higher yields and incomes will also increase financial incentives for farmers to clear more forest for agriculture. As a result, financial incentives to encourage farmers to protect forests and not expand agriculture would need to escalate as well. They expect farmers who were once willing to protect forests for a comparative pittance could, in a matter of years, demand more for their conservation actions. Small-scale farmers might also be displaced by larger commercial ventures as farming becomes more lucrative, and as profits increase with growing global demand for agricultural products.
After taking these factors into account, the researchers found that while the current costs of forest conservation in many countries are very low, future changes in agricultural practices could radically increase the cost of conservation.
Escalating cost is top concern
The NUS-led study illustrated that these contemporary policies tend to focus on short-term conservation and on improving the livelihoods of poor communities around forested areas. However, they risk overlooking impacts of on long-term conservation.
The researchers warn that conservation expenditure will have to dramatically increase to compete with future agriculture.
Said Jacob Phelps, a PhD candidate in the Department of Biological Sciences at the NUS Faculty of Science and first author of the study, "Our research suggests that as agriculture becomes more intensive, the small payments successful at incentivising forest conservation today could increase to well beyond what is considered economically efficient, or even feasible. We anticipate that similar patterns are likely across the tropics, including in places like Indonesia."
|Contact: Carolyn Fong|
National University of Singapore