Bias toward legally protecting and prioritizing charismatic taxonomic groups, such as mammals and birds, and against others, such as insects and plants, is well documented. However, the relative costs of conserving various taxonomic groups and the potential of these costs to interact with existing biases have been much less explored. We analyzed conservation programs across more than 2,000 species in 3 countries to investigate the costs of conserving species within taxonomic groups and how these costs might affect conservation planning. For each data set, we tested for differences in mean annual cost among taxonomic groups. For the data set from the United States, recovery plans differed in duration, so we also tested for differences in total costs among taxonomic groups. Although the costs for individual species varied widely, there were strong international consistencies. For example, mammals cost 8–26 times more on average to conserve than plants and 13–19 times more to conserve than aquatic invertebrates. On average, bird species cost 5–30 times more to conserve than plants and 6–14 times more to conserve than aquatic invertebrates. These cost differences could exacerbate unequal resource allocation among taxonomic groups such that more charismatic groups both receive more attention and require more resources, leading to neglect of other taxonomic groups.

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Conservation Biology
Department of Biology

Gordon, E.R. (Elizabeth Robson), Butt, N. (Nathalie), Rosner-Katz, H. (Hanna), Binley, A.D. (Allison D.), & Bennett, J.R. (2019). Relative costs of conserving threatened species across taxonomic groups. Conservation Biology. doi:10.1111/cobi.13382