Ecosystem services in conservation planning: Targeted benefits vs. co-benefits or costs?
There is growing support for characterizing ecosystem services in order to link conservation and human well-being. However, few studies have explicitly included ecosystem services within systematic conservation planning, and those that have follow two fundamentally different approaches: ecosystem services as intrinsically-important targeted benefits vs. substitutable co-benefits. We present a first comparison of these two approaches in a case study in the Central Interior of British Columbia. We calculated and mapped economic values for carbon storage, timber production, and recreational angling using a geographical information system (GIS). These 'marginal' values represent the difference in service-provision between conservation and managed forestry as land uses. We compared two approaches to including ecosystem services in the site-selection software Marxan: as Targeted Benefits, and as Co-Benefits/Costs (in Marxan's cost function); we also compared these approaches with a Hybrid approach (carbon and angling as targeted benefits, timber as an opportunity cost). For this analysis, the Co-Benefit/Cost approach yielded a less costly reserve network than the Hybrid approach (1.6% cheaper). Including timber harvest as an opportunity cost in the cost function resulted in a reserve network that achieved targets equivalently, but at 15% lower total cost. We found counter-intuitive results for conservation: conservation-compatible services (carbon, angling) were positively correlated with each other and biodiversity, whereas the conservation-incompatible service (timber) was negatively correlated with all other networks. Our findings suggest that including ecosystem services within a conservation plan may be most cost-effective when they are represented as substitutable co-benefits/costs, rather than as targeted benefits. By explicitly valuing the costs and benefits associated with services, we may be able to achieve meaningful biodiversity conservation at lower cost and with greater co-benefits.