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Wetlands, Wildlife, And Water Quality: Targeting And Trade Offs


  • Newbold, Stephen C.
  • Weinberg, Marca


Cost-effective targeting of conservation activities has only recently been addressed by economists. Most work to date has focused on finding the best locations to set aside land for the protection of biodiversity. An economic approach to the problem, where biodiversity reserve networks are delineated to maximize the number of species protected subject to a budget constraint, has been shown to be much more cost-effective than the standard approach, where reserve networks are delineated subject to an area constraint, ignoring differences in costs across sites. This paper is among the first to use spatially explicit models of production functions for ecosystem services in an optimization framework for prioritizing sites for wetlands restoration. Tradeoffs between two classes of environmental benefits from wetlands restoration, habitat, and water quality were assessed in the Central Valley of California. Habitat benefits were estimated by a count regression model that relates breeding mallard abundances to the configuration of land use types in the study area, and water quality benefits were estimated by a spatially distributed model of nonpoint source pollution and nutrient attenuation in wetlands. Two decision scenarios were analyzed. In the first scenario the optimal configuration of restoration activity was determined for a small watershed, and in the second scenario sites were selected from those offered for enrollment in an easement program throughout the valley. The results reveal the potential for gains in effectiveness from spatial targeting, and they suggest that there will be substantial tradeoffs between environmental benefits. Maximizing habitat quality in the small watershed yielded a 34% increase in mallard abundance and a 3% decrease in nitrogen loads to the river. In contrast, maximizing water quality resulted in a 25% decrease in nitrogen loads and a 2% increase in mallard abundance. Qualitatively similar results were obtained when sites were selected from a set of offered sites throughout the valley, but the tradeoffs were not as severe. The results also suggest that at traditional funding levels the Wetlands Reserve Program in California could reduce nitrogen loads to rivers by approximately 29,000 kg and increase total mallard abundance in the breeding season by approximately 150 individuals throughout the Central Valley in a given year.

Suggested Citation

  • Newbold, Stephen C. & Weinberg, Marca, 2003. "Wetlands, Wildlife, And Water Quality: Targeting And Trade Offs," 2003 Annual meeting, July 27-30, Montreal, Canada 22013, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:aaea03:22013

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Wu, JunJie & Boggess, William G., 1999. "The Optimal Allocation of Conservation Funds," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 38(3), pages 302-321, November.
    2. Taylor, Michael L. & Adams, Richard M. & Miller, Stanley F., 1992. "Farm-Level Response To Agricultural Effluent Control Strategies: The Case Of The Willamette Valley," Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Western Agricultural Economics Association, vol. 17(01), July.
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    4. Edward B. Barbier, 1994. "Valuing Environmental Functions: Tropical Wetlands," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 70(2), pages 155-173.
    5. Sanchirico, James N. & Wilen, James E., 1999. "Bioeconomics of Spatial Exploitation in a Patchy Environment," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 37(2), pages 129-150, March.
    6. Stephen Polasky & Jeffrey D. Camm & Brian Garber-Yonts, 2001. "Selecting Biological Reserves Cost-Effectively: An Application to Terrestrial Vertebrate Conservation in Oregon," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 77(1), pages 68-78.
    7. Randhir, Timothy O. & Lee, John G., 1997. "Economic And Water Quality Impacts Of Reducing Nitrogen And Pesticide Use In Agriculture," Agricultural and Resource Economics Review, Northeastern Agricultural and Resource Economics Association, vol. 26(1), April.
    8. Brown, Gardner, Jr & Hammack, Judd, 1973. "Dynamic Economic Management of Migratory Waterfowl," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 55(1), pages 73-82, February.
    9. Ribaudo, Marc O. & Heimlich, Ralph & Claassen, Roger & Peters, Mark, 2001. "Least-cost management of nonpoint source pollution: source reduction versus interception strategies for controlling nitrogen loss in the Mississippi Basin," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(2), pages 183-197, May.
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