Protecting nature on private land using revolving funds: Assessing property suitability.

Date: 20, Feb, 2018
Author(s):   Mathew Hardy, Sarah Bekessy, James Fitzsimons, Luis Mata, Chris Cook, Alex Nankivell, Kate Smillie, Ascelin Gordon
Publisher: Biological Conservation

Protecting biodiversity on private land is an important and growing part of global conservation efforts. Revolving funds are used by conservation organisations to buy, on-sell and permanently protect private land with important ecological values. By reinvesting proceeds from sales in additional properties, revolving funds offer a potentially cost-effective way to protect biodiversity. Their success requires managers to choose properties that can be on-sold and recover costs, with resale outcomes having consequences for subsequent acquisitions. However, revolving fund property selection is a multi-dimensional decision, influenced by various ecological, social and financial considerations. In conjunction with revolving fund managers, we developed a Bayesian Belief Network (BBN) to understand which factors they consider to be the most influential on a property’s suitability for acquisition, and how much to pay for it. Sensitivity analysis revealed that managers perceive property suitability to be heavily influenced by the threat to the property’s ecological values, the acquisition and ongoing management costs, and finding alternative options for protection. Amenity values were seen to heavily influence property resale. Threat and alternative options influence how much to pay, but most influential was the balance of the fund when the purchasing decision is made. Our results suggest managers are taking a low risk approach to property selection. Opportunities may exist to apply revolving funds to higher risk properties otherwise difficult to conserve, provided the need for resale is still met. Ensuring revolving funds target properties with suitable attributes could increase the contribution of this tool to conserving biodiversity on private land.