ECOLOGICAL ECONOMICS - Hidden cost of conservation: A demonstration using losses from human-wildlife conflicts under a payments for ecosystem services programDOWNLOAD FILE
As global efforts to protect ecosystems expand, there is increasing concern about conservation costs borne by rural communities. To date, these costs have often been narrowly estimated in terms of foregone livelihood opportunities directly caused by conservation, while unintended human burdens that accrue with ecological gains from conservation are often ignored. As a first attempt to quantify this previously hidden cost, we esti- mated the impact of converting cropland to forest under one of the world’s largest conservation policies, China’s Grain-to-Green Program (GTGP), on crop raiding in a demonstration site using the matching approach. We found that GTGP afforestation was responsible for 64 % of the crop damage by wildlife on remaining cropland, a cost worth 27 % of GTGP’s total payment to farmers. Our study highlights that the conservation cost to communities through influencing human-wildlife conflicts can be substantial, which should be quantified and considered in global conservation efforts to avoid unintended burdens on rural communities.