Can community payments with no strings attached benefit biodiversity?

A recent study published in the journal Nature Sustainability examines the idea of a “conservation basic income” paid to community members living in or near key areas for biodiversity protection.

Hundreds of millions of people around the world live in spots considered critical for the protection of wildlife. More than three-quarters of these populations exist in less-industrialized countries, where poverty can contribute to the loss of biodiversity in the pursuit of meeting basic needs

Recently, in a study in the journal Nature Sustainability published May 18, a team of researchers calculated the cost of providing a conservation basic income (CBI) to the people living around biodiversity-rich parks and reserves or other vital areas for species protection, particularly in low- or middle-income countries. The CBI concept stems from similar proposals for what’s known as universal basic income, with the aim of providing a stable source of income and potentially benefiting biodiversity and nature in general.

There isn’t a lot of research on how effective a CBI — or on universal basic incomes, for that matter — would be. Where evidence for CBI does exist, it paints a mixed picture. It sometimes benefits the environment but other times leaves habitats worse off.

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