Replacement cost: A practical measure of site value for cost-effective reserve planning

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Cabeza, Mar and Moilanen, Atte

Conservation needs are often in direct competition with other forms of land-use, and therefore protection of biodiversity must be cost-efficient. While common reserve selection algorithms address this problem, quantitative planning tools often suggest an optimal set of sites that is not necessarily convenient for practical conservation. Besides cost-effective solutions we require flexibility if land-use conflicts are to be effectively resolved. We introduce a novel concept for site value in quantitative reserve planning. Replacement cost refers to the loss in solution value given that the optimal cost-efficient solution cannot be protected and alternative solutions, with particular sites forcibly included or excluded, are needed. This cost can be defined either in terms of loss of biological value or in terms of extra economic cost, and it has clear mathematical definitions in the context of benefit-function-based reserve planning. A main difference with the much-used concept of irreplaceability is that the latter tells about the likelihood of needing a site for achieving a particular conservation target. Instead, replacement cost tells us at what cost (biological or economic) can we exclude (or include) a site from the reserve network. Here, we illustrate the concept with hypothetical examples and show that replacement-cost analysis should prove useful in an interactive planning process, improving our understanding of the importance of a site for cost-efficient conservation.


Cabeza, M., and A. Moilanen. 2006. Replacement cost: A practical measure of site value for cost-effective reserve planning. Biological Conservation 132:336–342.