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Biodiversity Research: How much does it cost?

It’s common to hear discussions about conservation, endangered species, and threatened ecosystems. However, funding towards these types of initiatives is rarely discussed.

A recent research, published by the well-known scientific community PLOS ONE, precisely addresses this void of knowledge. Assessing the Cost of Global Biodiversity and Conservation Knowledgeaddresses the costs of development and maintenance invested in the four knowledge products of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Do you know what a IUCN knowledge product is?

First of all, the IUCN, founded in 1948, is currently the first environmental organization of the world. It counts with more than 1,300 organizations in 170 countries, including: states and governmental agencies, small and big non-governmental organizations, bilateral and multilateral agencies of economic development, foundations, academic and scientific institutions, and business entities. They are all focused, directly or indirectly, on topics related to conservation, the environment, and natural resources.
Resultado de imagen para iucn

Knowledge products, currently 6 for the IUCN, are  measurement systems for conservation state, risk and action opportunities related to biodiversity. Such measurement systems are built from data collected by a wide network of expert volunteers from all over the world.

An important amount of data is collected and widely used to guide actors at local, national, regional, and international levels in the decision-making and implementation process of new policies and practices in the biodiversity sector, considering the last one as a common asset in regards to putting the benefits of conservation into perspective.

Four of the most important and known knowledge products of the IUCN are: the Red List of Threatened Species, the Protected Planet, the World Data Base of Key Areas for Biodiversity, and the Red List of Ecosystems (RLE).

 Resultado de imagen para The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species logoResultado de imagen para Protected Planet IUCN logo

It is estimated that approximately 160 million dollars, 293 people and years of volunteer work (valued in 14 million dollars/night) have been invested in these knowledge products from 1979 to 2013.

The financial cost of studying, assessing, and maintaining biodiversity and conservation through these measurements is not trivial. Assessing the cost is fundamental to all the people that invest in its result in order to guarantee long-term sustainable financing and to allow exploring of methods to minimize these costs. Thus improving efficiency of data collection, and validation and broadcasting processes.

The Red List of Ecosystems (RLE)

In May 2014, the IUCN approved the definite basis of the Red List of Ecosystems (RLE) a new and very required methodology to detect and broadcast the state of endangered ecosystems in the world.

Considering that the Red List of Ecosystems (RLE) of the IUCN is a recent knowledge product, its costs during the assessed period (1979-2013) were relatively lower than those of the 3 previously mentioned knowledge products.

The estimated maintenance cost of both the data and platforms of the Red List of Threatened Species, the Protected Planet, and the World Database of Key Areas for Biodiversity was of 6.5 million dollars, annually.

According to the same study, 114 million additional dollars would be required to cover all planned objectives for the 4 knowledge products through time.

Annual maintenance costs would be of over 12 million dollars. Therefore, the regular and renovated development and implementation of sustainable, long-term financing plans is paramount.

In the case of the RLE, such investment would allow achieving the objectives to globally assess ecosystems by 2025. Among the ecosystems that the RLE plans to study are terrestrial, fluvial, marine, and underground ecosystems at a global level.

If it was possible to count with both the resources and required capacity without delay, the desired objectives would be achieved in less calendar time.

At first sight these numbers may seem elevated; however, they are relatively low compared to the required investment for other important knowledge products in the world. It is important to highlight that in the case of the products at matter, the retribution is invaluable.

It’s fundamental to guarantee that the knowledge products about diversity and conservation are updated, complete, and precise enough so that they contribute in the decision-making to take timely actions for the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable development of the planet.  A responsible and imperative decision.

The unit of the Red List of Ecosystems would like to thank the MAVA Foundation, the Moore Foundation, the Rufford Foundation, the Environmental Agency of Abu Dhabi, the European Commission, the Fund for the Association of Critical Ecosystems and the many other thousands of particular volunteers and organizations that have contributed to the creation and maintenance of this knowledge product for the benefit of ecosystems. Thank you!



Written by: Marianna Collet C.

Provita Aug 26, 2016


IUCN Red List of Ecosystems


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