Biodiversity in a REDD+ world

There’s a new kid in town – it’s the carbon payment mechanism termed REDD+, and it’s operating at a scale that could fundamentally change conservation in the tropics. REDD+ stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (plus the conservation, sustainable management and enhancement of forest carbon stocks). Early commitments to the scheme total about US$4.5 billion but that figure could be eclipsed by what’s coming down the pipeline.

In response to this opportunity, a suite of studies have suggested ways to secure and enhance positive outcomes for biodiversity from REDD+. Recommendations include monitoring biodiversity outcomes, drafting policy safeguards for biodiversity, changing technical definitions to the benefit of biodiversity, outlining biodiversity friendly management interventions and ensuring the widest adoption of REDD+ measures. At its core, however, REDD+ must remain a carbon-focused mechanism, and its ability to adopt these policy suggestions may be limited.

In stark contrast with the efforts to influence REDD+ policy, conservation science and theory has yet to explore how biodiversity actors could instead adapt their policy and behavior in response to the presence of REDD+. In this paper, Oscar Venter and colleagues critically assess for the first time the expected outcomes of five contrasting scenarios of engagement between a biodiversity actor and REDD+.

They discover that in the Berau regency, Indonesia, it is beneficial for a biodiversity actor to react in some way to REDD+, but the preferred reaction depends on whether a REDD+ project is already developing in the region, and the scale and type of conservation objectives. In general, from a strict biodiversity perspective, the most cost-efficient reaction to the presence of REDD+ is to use biodiversity funds to protect areas neglected by REDD+.

These results demonstrate that if biodiversity actors fail to adapt to the way they pursue conservation in the tropics, REDD+ opportunities could go largely untapped.



Venter O, L Hovani, M Bode & HP Possingham. (2013) Acting optimally for biodiversity in a world obsessed with REDD+. Conservation Letters DOI: 10.1111/conl.12018


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