Inadequate funding from developed countries has hampered international efforts to conserve biodiversity in tropical forests. We present two complementary research approaches that reveal a significant increase in public demand for conservation within tropical developing countries as those countries reach upper-middle-income (UMI) status. We highlight UMI tropical countries because they contain nearly four-fifths of tropical primary forests, which are rich in biodiversity and stored carbon. The first approach is a set of statistical analyses of various cross-country conservation indicators, which suggests that protective government policies have lagged behind the increase in public demand in these countries. The second approach is a case study from Malaysia, which reveals in a more integrated fashion the linkages from rising household income to increased household willingness to pay for conservation, nongovernmental organization activity, and delayed government action. Our findings suggest that domestic funding in UMI tropical countries can play a larger role in (i) closing the funding gap for tropical forest conservation, and (ii) paying for supplementary conservation actions linked to international payments for reduced greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in tropical countries.
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