Co-benefits and trade-offs between agriculture and conservation: a case study in Northern Australia
Stoeckl, N and Chaiechi, T and Farr, M and Jarvis, D and Alvarez-Romero, JG and Kennard, MJ and Hermoso, V and Pressey, RL, Co-benefits and trade-offs between agriculture and conservation: a case study in Northern Australia, Biological Conservation, 191 pp. 478-494. ISSN 0006-3207 (2015) [Refereed Article]
On-farm conservation programmes require land managers to pursue both market and non-market objectives. If
one can identify objectives that are complementary (co-benefits) and competitive (trade-offs) so that co-benefits
can be pursued and trade-offs avoided, one may be able to lower the costs to land managers of on-farm conservation programmes.
We used data from farms in northern Australia to identify potential trade-offs and co-benefits between market
and non-market objectives. We used Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA) to assess the relationship between
farm ‘inputs’ (e.g. land, labour, capital) and both market and non-market ‘outputs’ (used interchangeably with
‘outcomes’) (e.g. value of on-farm production, turtle biodiversity). The DEA analysis generated an ‘efficiency
score’ for each farm; the best scores were associated with farms that used fewest inputs and had the ‘best’ outcome(s). We then looked for statistically significant relationships between those scores and other variables
known to influence outcomes.
After controlling for biophysical factors (e.g. rainfall, soil type), we found little evidence of trade-offs between
market and non-market outcomes. We found that farms with many weeds had poor market efficiency scores,
suggesting that weed-reduction programmes could generate substantive co-benefits for agriculture and biodiversity. Properties managed by people who preferred a small steady income (over a large uncertain income)
had higher non-market efficiency scores, suggesting a link between conservation and attitudes to risk. Our results
also suggest that encouraging on-farm agricultural diversification, the adoption of environmentally focused landmanagement plans, and a generally more positive attitude towards conservation could improve environmental
outcomes without compromising market outcomes.
National Environmental Research Program, James Cook University, Griffith University, Centre Tecnologic Forestal de Catalunya