Trends in biodiversity and habitat quantification tools used for market‐based conservation in the United States

Conservation Biology
By:  and 



Market-based conservation mechanisms are designed to facilitate conservation and mitigation actions for habitat and biodiversity. Their potential is partly hindered, however, by issues surrounding the quantification tools used to assess habitat quality and functionality. Specifically, a lack of transparency and standardization in tool development and gaps in tool availability are cited concerns. To address these issues, we collected information about tools used in United States conservation mechanisms such as eco-label and payments for ecosystem services (PES) programs, conservation banking, and habitat exchanges. We summarized information about tools and explored trends among and within mechanisms using criteria detailing geographic, ecological, and technical features of tools. We identified 69 tools that assessed at least 34 species and 39 habitat types. Where tools reported pricing, 98% were freely available. Most tools required a moderate or greater level of user skill. More tools were applied to states along the west coast of the United States than elsewhere and the level of tool transferability varied markedly among mechanisms. Tools most often incorporated conditions at numerous spatial scales, frequently addressed multiple risks to site viability, and required from 1 to 83 data inputs. Finally, average tool complexity estimates were similar among all mechanisms except PES programs. Our results illustrate the diversity among tools in their ecological features, data needs, and geographic application, supporting concerns about a lack of standardization. However, consistency among tools in user skill requirements, the incorporation of multiple spatial scales, and complexity highlight important commonalities that could serve as a starting point for establishing more standardized tool development and feature incorporation processes. Greater standardization in tool design may not only expand market participation, but may also facilitate a needed assessment of the effectiveness of market-based conservation.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Trends in biodiversity and habitat quantification tools used for market‐based conservation in the United States
Series title Conservation Biology
DOI 10.1111/cobi.13349
Volume 34
Issue 1
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Energy Resources Program, Science and Decisions Center
Description 12 p.
First page 125
Last page 136
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