The Domestic Benefits of Tropical Forests: A Critical Review
Many forest conservation projects seek to preserve biodiversity by protecting habitats from exploitation or degradation. Although such efforts are often motivated by global concerns, habitat protection also yields domestic benefits. Some of these are intangible or difficult to quantify; others, such as watershed protection and the production of nonforest timber products, are immediate and tangible. There are two rationales for quantifying the domestic benefits of habitat conservation. The first is motivational. Host countries capture only a small proportion of the global benefits which stem from biodiversity conservation. Demonstration of palpable local benefits could help to build support for biodiversity-oriented projects. Second, the magnitude of domestic benefits could influence project financing. Sufficiently large net domestic benefits could justify financing of a project on narrow economic grounds, with biodiversity conservation as a by-product.
This review finds that the quantifiable benefits of forest preservation in providing hydrological services and nontimber forest products are highly variable. Locally important in some situations, these classes of domestic benefits may in general be smaller than popularly supposed. This underscores the need for financing conservation from the Global Environmental Facility or other global sources rather than placing the burden entirely on domestic resources.