Allocation of Land at the Rural-Urban Fringe Using a Spatially-Realistic Ecosystem Constraint
Development in rural-urban fringe communities is increasing with the potential to damage healthy ecosystems and endanger the long-term persistence of resident flora and fauna. The environmental impacts of development include loss, degradation, and fragmentation of wildlife habitat, increased air and water pollution, increased soil erosion, and decreased aesthetic appeal of the landscape. Current land use policies rarely incorporate features of landscape-scale ecosystem health. This paper develops a model that combines ecological and economic constructs to determine the optimal allocation of development across a spatially-realistic landscape. The land allocation model establishes links between long-term metapopulation persistence and development through an ecosystem constraint. A social planner seeks to maximize the benefits of development while guaranteeing a certain likelihood of long-term metapopulation persistence across the landscape that accounts for the changes to habitat patches and species dispersal success brought about by development. It is shown that in an economically homogeneous environment, the allocation of land to developed uses is determined solely by ecological elements (landscape structure and species parameters). The amount of land remaining in each habitat patch is the same regardless of their initial sizes or initial levels of development. The cost to society of meeting the ecological objective for metapopulation persistence depends on the land rent, the level of the safe-minimum-standard, the area of the landscape management unit, the distance between habitat patches, the dispersal ability of the focal species, and the species-specific area scaling parameter. Cost is not affected by the initial conditions of the habitat patches or the amount of development that has already taken place in the landscape management unit. When heterogeneity is introduced, the allocation of land is also determined by the differential land rents. More development occurs in habitat patches and landscape management units with higher land rents compared with the homogeneous case. In the heterogeneous land use case, where different land uses have different intensities of damages, the development intensity parameters are factors in the solution with more development occurring in areas zoned for less intensive land uses and the cost to society of achieving the ecological objective is a function of initial habitat patch sizes.
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