Compensation policies seek to counterbalance biodiversity losses caused by development; however, their effectiveness is rarely tested. We examined U.S. Species Conservation Banks (SCBs) in California, a compensation program initiated 30 years ago. We quantified the effect of 59 SCBs (15,350 ha) on habitat extent using statistical matching methods. SCBs averted a small, yet significant, amount of habitat loss (62 ha) between 2001 and 2011. However, unexpectedly, SCBs also averted significant habitat gains (1,424 ha). It is not possible to determine if losses averted by SCBs equaled losses caused by development for which credits were sold (because records of the latter do not exist), but estimated averted gains were 35 times greater than averted losses. To improve practice, SCBs must be designed to achieve outcomes that are additional and avoid crowding out other programs incentivizing statewide conservation goals.
- ecosystem services
- statistical matching
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Nature and Landscape Conservation