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Valuing Nature

When economic payoffs justify conservation

By
11:41am, November 27, 2005

Around the edges of the Mabira Forest Reserve in Uganda, farms and woodlands are locked in a battle, and the woodlands are losing ground. Scores of bird species face an increasingly desperate situation. Yet according to a new economic study, most of them could be saved. By attracting enough tourism revenue to justify the preservation of their habitat, the birds just might rescue themselves.

Ecotourism—as well as hunting, fishing, timber harvesting, and other human activities—requires nature. Healthy ecosystems provide a range of public services, too, such as water purification, greenhouse-gas absorption, and protection from coastal-storm surges.

Ecological conservation could safeguard those benefits. But financial market

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