Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Efficiency vs Sufficiency in Conservation

By Hugh Possingham

Comparing how much money is needed to ensure a conservation outcome with how to deliver the biggest outcome for a fixed investment are two sides of the same coin.

Professor Hugh Possingham is Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, which forms part of the Environmental Decisions Group.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

During a recent review of our research centres I was pulled up about our focus on efficiency. The challenge came from Greening Australia’s David Freudenberger, who exclaimed: “While all this research on efficiency is great, I wish you would do some more research on sufficiency” – or words to that effect. It took many months for me to fully understand exactly what he was saying.

One of the important contributions of much of our research over the past 10 years is to ask conservation researchers to include money in their thinking. It’s a notion that probably seems fairly pedestrian to most economists yet it’s a major stumbling block for a lot of conservation science. It is hard to be credible when you spend public funds and ignore the cost of actions.

For example, by the end of the last century there were innumerable processes and decision support tools to choose where to place national parks and marine reserves. But most of these frameworks concentrated on optimising biodiversity value – however you wanted to define it. The cost of the various options was often not factored in despite the fact that cost was more often than not the key factor in determining the best option.

The conservation planning tool I helped develop with Ian Ball and Matt Watts placed the importance of including cost front and centre. It is called Marxan. Once the conservation targets...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.