Scientists relate market prices to biodiversity contributions of African ungulates
February 25, 2016
New study conducted by researchers of the University of Oviedo reveals that expensive species like antelopes mean a lower contribution to biodiversity than the cheaper ones like zebras.
The market price of different species of southern African animals is not in accordance with their biological value. This is the main conclusion of the study carried out by researchers of the University of Oviedo and published in the journal Scientific Reports, which took as a reference the prices paid for great African mammals in game auctions that offer dead and alive animals for their exhibition in natural reserves in South Africa.
Research has been conducted by Fredrik Dalerum, of the Mixed Unit for Biodiversity and María Miranda, of the Department of Economics. Both scientists, who lived in South Africa for years, based their research on one question: ¿is there any connection between the ecological and biological value of wild animals and their price? María Miranda highlights that answering this question was complex, as "we cannot set a price for environmental assets, like fauna and flora". South Africa is an exception. African natural reserves that host wild animals, particularly great mammals, join game auctions where it is possible to obtain "market price".
The work, published in ‘Scientific Reports', has taken as a reference the prices paid for great mammals in game auctions in South Africa for a period of 20 years.
The two researchers of the University of Oviedo have studied the buying-selling price of different animal species in theses auctions for 20 years and then that have compared it with their contribution to biodiversity. The results have shown that there is no connection at all, that is, the species with a higher economic value are not necessarily the most valuable as regards biological diversity. Fredrik Dalerum mentions two examples that provide a clear explanation of the lack of their relationship. This scientist states that the price of a zebra is nearly 400 even though their biological relevance is high. With antelopes is the other around. The cost of one of those individuals may be over 20.000 despite their contribution to biodiversity is lower. The work published reveals that the relationship between economic price and biological value has not been modified throughout the period of time under study, that is, 20 years.
The results obtained suggest, according to both researchers, that the policies for environment management and conservation should not be based on the economic cost of the species, but on their higher or lower contribution to biodiversity. Finally, María Miranda and Fredrik Dalerum emphasize that, since prices are subject to the tourists demand, our efforts should be set in making the tourists appreciate the importance of plants and animals and their contribution to biological biodiversity.
Reference: Game auction prices are not related to biodiversity contributions of southern African ungulates and large carnivores. Scientific Reports 6: 21922 Fredrik Dalerum y María Miranda.
Pictures: Fredrik Dalerum/María Miranda
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