Integrating quantitative and qualitative data in assessing the cost-effectiveness of biodiversity conservation programmes

Z Austin, A McVittie, DI McCracken, A Moxey, D Moran, PCL White

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13 Citations (Scopus)
25 Downloads (Pure)


Globally, most biodiversity conservation programmes are not currently evaluated in terms of their costs and benefits, or their rate of return on the original investment. Assessing the cost-effectiveness of such schemes is challenging as the relationship between spending and the effectiveness of conservation is dependent on many biological and socioeconomic factors. Here, we evaluate the cost-effectiveness of a selection of species and habitat conservation schemes undertaken through the Scotland Rural Development Programme. We use a combination of quantitative and qualitative data, based on expert knowledge, to estimate effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of different schemes and understand variations in the results. Our findings highlight a lack of geographical targeting in terms of where the funding might achieve the most conservation benefit, which may be contributing to high costs per unit of effectiveness. Recommendations include the need for improved advice on appropriate management and monitoring programmes that are linked closely to objectives. Conservation schemes within Scotland were used as the focus of the study, but the approaches used, interpretations drawn and improvements identified could be applied to any regional, national or international biodiversity conservation programmes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1359 - 1375
Number of pages17
JournalBiodiversity and Conservation
Issue number6
Publication statusFirst published - 2015

Bibliographical note



  • Agri-environment schemes
  • Conservation monitoring
  • Conservation objectives
  • Conservation planning
  • Expert knowledge
  • Scotland Rural Development Programme
  • Stakeholder engagement


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