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Department of Geography


Sustainable finance for Conservation Landscapes in the post-COVID world

Project summary

Our project will explore sustainable financing for conservation in the post-COVID19 context. The coronavirus pandemic has significantly disrupted traditional conservation finance models relying on private market flows. The results will contribute towards developing sustainable finance alternatives for conserving multi-functional landscapes that deliver positive outcomes for both people and nature.


The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in significant disruptions to traditional conservation finance models that relied on private market flows, such as eco-tourism and other forms of market-linked transactions and value-addition activities, based on sustainable harvesting and use from conservation landscapes. The significant disruption to travel, transport and global supply chains due to the pandemic has resulted in a short-term crisis for these market-linked conservation strategies, and a need to re-evaluate approaches to conservation finance. From a conservation values perspective, current models rely on markets that monetise (some) instrumental values, such as ecotourism, or consumptive use of ‘wildlife-friendly’ goods and services. The current pandemic has shown that these sources of conservation finance are volatile and vulnerable to disruption.


Values of landscapes

At the landscape scale, conservation projects generate additional sources of value that have not yet been converted into sustainable finance models. These ‘hidden values’ have become more visible due to recent work (at CCI and beyond) on ecosystem services and natural capital at the landscape scale. Many ecosystem services (i.e. the benefits that people receive from nature) provided by conservation landscapes can be considered as public goods. Recent work by IPBES on Nature’s Contributions to People (NCP) also recognises the role of conservation landscapes in providing a range of benefits to human society. Many of these values remain either invisible or difficult to measure and have not been part of existing models for sustainable conservation finance. Existing models have tended to focus on indirect rewards for conservation activity, such as the sustainable harvesting of commodity crops, ecotourism, or still-incipient markets for some ecosystem services that are co-benefits of conservation (e.g. carbon and water). By developing new models of conservation finance based on the public good benefits of conserving landscapes, this project will investigate the potential for harnessing the willingness of private and public actors to invest directly in activities that result in positive conservation outcomes at the landscape scale.


Sustainable financing for conservation

Recent examples like the Rhino Bonds suggest that it is possible to connect outcome-based payments with investors to generate new flows of conservation finance, underpinned by innovation in financial markets. To support better-informed landscape decisions, it is important to find sustainable finance models that recognise and reward the multiple values of nature. In the context of landscape-level conservation, multiple natural capital assets (e.g. biodiversity, soil, water) within a landscape interact and function as an integrated system. It is difficult to break down the landscape into single entities that should be protected; natural capital approaches focus on managing the landscape holistically as a complex interconnected system.

New techniques for the assessment of natural capital (i.e. the underlying stock of nature) allow a quantification of landscape scale outcomes which can provide verifiable indicators for performance-based models of conservation finance. This is compatible with a public good approach, as opposed to the singling out of specific goods or services within existing market-led approaches for conservation finance.

Project objectives

  1. We will review a range of models and tools that are available to assess public goods such as natural capital and ecosystem services within landscapes. These include the CCI TESSA (Toolkit for Ecosystem Service Site-based Assessment) tool, the Natural Capital Project’s InVEST (Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Trade-offs) tool, and the CCI Sustainable Development Goals Tool
  2. We will apply these models and tools to specific landscapes (i.e. case studies), in conservation contexts that have experienced significant disruptions to their current models of market-linked finance
  3. We will investigate the potential for new models of outcome-contingent finance for landscape-scale conservation. We will directly engage with experts in alternative finance and brokering relationships between conservation practitioners and financial investors in the public and private sectors.

Project team


  • Kiran Mohanan (Fauna Flora International)
  • Nicolas Tubbs (Fauna Flora International)
  • Dr Thomas Maddox (Fauna Flora International)
  • Billy Fairburn (BirdLife International)
  • Anne-Sophie Pellier (BirdLife International)
  • Dr Ellen Quigley (Cambridge Centre for the Study of Existential Risk)


This project has been generously supported by funding from the Cambridge Conservation Initiative Collaborative Fund for Conservation.

Interested in the project?

We are keen to hear from others. Please get in touch if interested in inputting to this project’s outputs.