Nature preserves are lands which are protected in order to provide hoped-for perpetuation of natural features within the context of a relatively unmodified natural environment. Nature preserves are typically justified on the basis of benefits to communities of plants or animals (biocentric benefits) or to Mankind (anthropocentric benefits). Anthropocentric benefits are usually described in terms of on-site uses of nature preserves for recreation, quiet enjoyment, scientific research, education, and/or resource-banking. These benefits are not, however, by any means the only effects which accrue to humans because of nature preserves; indeed some of them include the potential to damage the natural integrity of the preserves.
The majority of benefits which accrue to humans from nature preserves are in absentia benefits, or benefits which do not require the presence of the beneficiaries on the site. In absentia benefits include residual benefits, or benefits which persist or develop after visiting a preserve, vicarious benefits, or benefits which exist for one or more people (or society) because of someone else's visit to a preserve, and non-use benefits, or benefits which exist for people without anyone necessarily having visited the preserve. In addition there are ecosystem services, maintaining vital gene-pools and natural nutrient and hydrological cycles, as the most important category of non-use benefits. Of these four categories of in absentia benefits, non-use benefits are, by far, the largest. Non-use benefits provide the majority of anthropocentric values accruing from nature preserves.