Global biodiversity loss is occurring at an unprecedented rate, due in part to a significant shortfall in funding for conservation actions. This research seeks to answer, “How much does it cost to achieve a conservation outcome?”

The project consists of three primary objectives: (1) create a web-based decision support tool to allow users (e.g., mid- to senior-level government, foundation and NGO staff) to explore tradeoffs between investment choice and biodiversity loss and use this information to inform national and international funding decisions; (2) amalgamate and synthesize estimates of conservation investment globally to allow comparison of conservation budget needs with actual expenditure; and (3) compile conservation cost and benefit data using evidence synthesis methods, and develop guidelines to enable these data to be standardized across projects.

Currently, we have developed a prototype tool called the Conservation Investment Tool, which allows users to explore how varying hypothetical conservation investment affects biodiversity decline in a given country. We are also developing a database on conservation intervention cost-benefit information.

The tool allows exploration of how much investment is needed to achieve biodiversity targets under different socioeconomic growth trajectories (gross domestic product or GDP, DPG growth, percentage of agricultural land and agricultural development).

We based this tool on a model that predicts improvements in biodiversity loss of a country due to its investment in conservation actions concerning relevant human development pressures (Waldron et al., 2017). You can learn more about the model and the instructions about using this application in the following sections of the table of contents.

We plan to pilot the conservation investment tool in at least two countries (Colombia and Peru). We are also working with IUCN to combine this tool with the Species Threat Abatement and Recovery metric.


  • International Union for Conservation of Nature


  • The Arthur L. and Elaine V. Johnson Foundation
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


April 2018 — Ongoing