Evaluating the Return in Ecosystem Services from Investment in Public Land Acquisitions
We evaluate how land use change and the value ecosystem services affect the decision to invest in public land acquisitions. Our application is for the state of Minnesota, and we consider the acquisitions by Department of Natural Resources over the last two decades. We calculate a return on investment (ROI) in conservation showing the increase in the value of ecosystem goods and services from public lands per dollar spent on acquisition. A spatially-explicit modeling tool, the Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Tradeoffs (InVEST), quantifies how changes in land use and land cover (LULC) influence the provision and value of a suite of ecosystem services: carbon sequestration, timber production, water quality, habitat quality, and outdoor recreation. The present value of the difference in the value of ecosystem services from landscapes with and without acquisitions in 1992 and for the econometrically modeled future landscapes in 2022 and 2052 is the return from the investment in the acquisitions. We find a limited number of acquisitions have a ROI above one. Also, we observe the estimated return in the acquisitions is much more influenced by the economic value of ecosystem services than the projected development threat to the acquisitions.
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