Which components or attributes of biodiversity influence which dimensions of poverty? (systematic map)


There is an explicit assumption in international policy statements that biodiversity can help in efforts to tackle global poverty. This systematic map was stimulated by an interest in better understanding the evidence behind this assumption by disaggregating the terms and asking – as our review question – which components or attributes of biodiversity influence which dimensions of poverty?


We employed a search strategy that covered peer-reviewed and grey literature. Relevant studies included in the map were those that described an interaction by poor people with biodiversity in non-OECD countries and documented some kind of contribution (positive or negative) to different aspects of their well-being.


A total of 387 studies were included in the final systematic map. Of these 248 met our additional criteria that studies should include a measure of the contribution to poverty alleviation. The studies were widely distributed geographically. Ecological distribution was less well spread, however, with the largest number of studies focussed on forests. We found studies addressing 12 different dimensions of poverty/well-being – although the most commonly studied was income. Similarly we found studies addressing all levels of biodiversity from genes to ecosystems. The largest number of studies was focussed on groups of resources – particularly non-timber forest products. In most cases, abundance was the attribute that made biodiversity important for poverty alleviation/well-being, while diversity was the least frequently noted attribute.


The map highlights a number of apparent gaps in the evidence base. Very few studies documented any causal link between use of biodiversity and an impact on poverty. In the majority of the studies biodiversity was framed in terms of its value as a resource – in the form of specific goods that can be used to generate tangible benefits such as cash, food fuel. Very few studies explored the underpinning role of biodiversity in ecosystem service delivery for poverty alleviation, and fewer investigated the benefits of diversity as a form of insurance or adaptive capacity. This is where we suggest research should be prioritised.


Biodiversity, Nature conservation, Wildlife conservation, Poverty, Livelihoods


The assumption that biodiversity and ecosystem services can help in efforts to tackle poverty is implicit in international targets set for biodiversity conservation (by the Convention on Biological Diversity) and for poverty reduction (enshrined in the Millennium Development Goals). The 2010 United Nations General Assembly further stressed the linkage, claiming: “preserving biodiversity is inseparable from the fight against poverty.” Nevertheless the evidence-base on biodiversity – poverty links is not as robust as one might assume. Studies in the academic and “grey” literature have used diverse methods and metrics, different components of biodiversity and dimensions of poverty have been studied, and the scale of impact has rarely been assessed.


This systematic map protocol sets out the proposed methodology for exploring the primary question: Which components or attributes of biodiversity affect (positively or negatively) which dimensions of poverty? The overall aim of our review is to unpack the broad claims and assumptions that are made about biodiversity-poverty links such as those above, and provide researchers, policy-makers and practitioners with a methodical overview of the type and quantity of evidence. The online databases SCOPUS and Web of Science will be searched for relevant peer-reviewed literature using search terms and Boolean search operators. Relevant grey literature will be identified through the membership and resources of the Poverty and Conservation Learning Group. The literature searches will be followed by a title and abstract level search using inclusion and exclusion criteria. Data will be extracted from the final list of papers using a questionnaire established through literature review and an expert workshop. A report and online database will be produced based on the results of the review.