My favourite paper of the week is… “Socioeconomic and political trade-offs in biodiversity conservation: a case study of the Cerrado Biodiversity Hotspot, Brazil”

Frederico V. Faleiro and Rafael D. Loyola (2013) Socioeconomic and political trade-offs in biodiversity conservation: a case study of the Cerrado Biodiversity Hotspot, Brazil. Diversity and distributions. 1-11. article.


I really enjoyed reading this article this week. Very often we see spatial conservation papers that base their recommendations only on ecological reasons. This is great but may not agree with political will—whose inclusion in this paper is rather innovative—or the opportunity costs of having other land uses in certain areas. This article is a great example of how spatial conservation priorities change when other criteria are incorporated and, interestingly, how it is possible to find areas where conservation can match political will and avoid conflict with other land uses.

The methods are well-balanced between sophisticated ecological niche models of 100 over species and trade-off analyses in a multi-criteria framework using the Zonation software.

The result is that the resulting protected area network is very different to the one that would be obtained using biodiversity considerations alone.

Overall a paper worth reading and pondering about.

My favourite paper of the week is… “The global distribution and burden of dengue”

Samir Bhatt, Peter W. Gething, Oliver J. Brady, Jane P. Messina, Andrew W. Farlow, Catherine L. Moyes, John M. Drake, John S. Brownstein, Anne G. Hoen, Osman Sankoh, Monica F. Myers, Dylan B. George, Thomas Jaenisch, G. R. William Wint, Cameron P. Simmons, Thomas W. Scott, Jeremy J. Farrar & Simon I. Hay (2013) The global distribution and burden of dengue. Nature 496: 504-507. article.

I chose this paper mainly for two reasons: (1) having global maps of dengue incidence represents a tremendous help for all those working on dengue research and policy makers, it also helps to open our eyes to how serious the problem is (~3 times more infections than those estimated by WHO!); (2) the beauty of the methods that are required to produce global estimates of such an elusive disease when it comes to reporting.

I enjoyed the integration of dengue reporting in the boosted regression tree with spatial covariates like vegetation, urban areas and accessibility. But the most interesting bit is how the spatial distribution is combined with multiple cohort datasets to, using MCMC, create a global map of dengue burden.

This is a great advancement for dengue disease burden estimation that paves the way for an update of economic burden of dengue worldwide. This may suppose the definite push for new technologies for dengue control (e.g. RIDL, Wolbachia) which are waiting for the last policy nod.

As a negative note, if any, is that I could not find the estimated global maps available as shapefiles or raster files in the supplementary information of the publication. I hope these are made available upon request to the authors? Having the files available in the Nature website would be a great help to many of us, I really hope journals implement a stronger policy for straight data sharing.

Anyway, this is a terrific paper and my favourite one for the week. I highly recommend reading it (even the supplementary information!).


My favourite paper of the week is… (section starts)

During the week I try to keep up with the new publications. I tend to find a few gem articles that I read avidly. I thought this could be a good venue to share those articles that struck me for their originality. I will try to keep this section weekly but can’t promise it will happen super regularly.

The articles I am likely to refer to will range from conservation, ecological economics and public health.

Agricultural intensification escalates future conservation costs

Phelps J, Carrasco LR, Webb EL, Koh LP, Pascual U (2013) Agricultural intensification escalates future conservation costs. Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences. doi:10.1073/pnas.1220070110



The supposition that agricultural intensification results in land sparing for conservation has become central to policy formulations across the tropics. However, underlying assumptions remain uncertain and have been little explored in the context of conservation incentive schemes such as policies for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation, conservation, sustainable management, and enhancement of carbon stocks (REDD+). Incipient REDD+ forest carbon policies in a number of countries propose agricultural intensification measures to replace extensive “slash-and-burn” farming systems. These may result in conservation in some contexts, but will also increase future agricultural land rents as productivity increases, creating new incentives for agricultural expansion and deforestation. While robust governance can help to ensure land sparing, we propose that conservation incentives will also have to increase over time, tracking future agricultural land rents, which might lead to runaway conservation                              costs. We present a conceptual framework that depicts these relationships, supported by an illustrative model of the intensification of key crops in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a leading REDD+ country. A von Thünen land rent model is combined with geographic information systems mapping to demonstrate how agricultural intensification could influence future conservation costs. Once postintensification agricultural land rents are considered, the cost of reducing forest sector emissions could significantly exceed current and projected carbon credit prices. Our analysis highlights the importance of considering escalating conservation costs from agricultural intensification when designing conservation initiatives.


Swidden, slash and burn, land use change, payment for ecosystem services, biodiversity


Who should pay for global health, and how much?

Our article was published in PLOS Medicine (Carrasco, Coker, Cook). We devise a new way to identify the expected contributions to global health from each country in the world. We propose a global health cost-effectiveness threshold coupled to a DALY (disability-adjusted life year) credit market.

The idea is simple, high or middle-income countries or health projects in these countries that allocate resources to not very cost-effective projects need to buy DALY credits from highly cost-effective projects in low income countries to carry on with their projects.

For instance, if we want to adopt a very costly vaccine in Singapore, we would need to contribute a little bit to very cost-effective children immunization vaccines in Sub-Saharan Africa. Given how cheap is to avert DALYs in low-income countries compared to high income countries, we would only need to contribute an equivalent to ~0.1–0.5% of the costs of the project. We believe that this system could help to prevent the tragedy of the commons in global health by promoting a massive scale-up of global health donations to low-income countries.

The paper pdf and supporting information is open can be found here.


Maternal health in Afghanistan.

Source: Merlin, Wikipedia.


Carrasco LR, Coker R, Cook AR (2013) Who Should Pay for
Global Health, and How Much? Plos Medicine 10: e1001392. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001392




  • Mechanisms to establish the expected financial contribution from each country to achieve the health Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) could encourage scaling-up of contributions.
  • Mirroring global carbon permit markets to mitigate climate change, we propose a cap-and-trade system consisting of a global cost-effectiveness criterion and a disability-adjusted life year (DALY) global credit market.
  • Under this system, high-income and middle-income countries should contribute, respectively, 74% and 26% of the additional US$36–US$45 billion annually needed to attain the health MDGs. The change relative to current contributions would vary, with some countries needing to scale-up substantially their expected annual contributions under the proposed market (e.g., US, US$7–US$10 billion; China, US$2–US$3 billion; Japan, US$2 billion; Germany, US$1.5–US$2 billion), while a few already meet or exceed their required contributions (i.e., Norway, the United Arab Emirates, Luxembourg, and the UK).
  • A DALY tradable credit market offers the potential to increase the efficiency of global health investments while promoting international obligations to the pursuit of an agreed global common good.


carbon credits, DALYs, global health, health aid, vaccination.