Economics of Conserving Ecosystem Integrity with Residential Development around Vernal Pools

EPA Grant Number: R829384
Title: Economics of Conserving Ecosystem Integrity with Residential Development around Vernal Pools
Investigators: Swallow, Stephen K. , Paton, Peter
Institution: University of Rhode Island
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: January 1, 2002 through December 31, 2005 (Extended to August 31, 2006)
Project Amount: $200,017
RFA: Decision-Making and Valuation for Environmental Policy (2001) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Environmental Justice


The proposed research intends to identify economic and ecological (conservation biological) factors that influence society's ability to maintain a well functioning ecosystem in the face of sprawl or rural residential development. The research concerns the population dynamics of species characterized by spatially-dispersed subpopulations (forming metapopulations) and the economic value of development opportunities forgone by decisions that encourage the conservation of these species and sustenance of the ecosystem integrity that is correlated with these species. The proposed research represents an initial step in understanding whether or how society might maintain ecosystem integrity as residential development encroaches on the landscape. Particular emphasis is given to modeling amphibian metapopulations dependent upon vernal pools (seasonal wetlands) and habitats connecting the vernal pools.

The objectives are: (1) to assess the baseline value of foregone opportunities for development and amphibian metapopulations that can be anticipated after rural residential development expands under current wetland regulations; (2) to evaluate economic and ecological factors affecting the cost of maintaining metapopulations for an assemblage of amphibians, as represented by vernal pool ecosystems in southern New England, at a variety of geographic scales; (3) to examine the ecological and economic implications of alternative regulatory or development incentive mechanisms that influence the probability of land development within or around vernal-pool based ecosystems.


The approach involves development of an economic-ecological framework and simulation of the impacts of residential development on ecosystem integrity, as represented by amphibians that depend upon vernal pools, and the impacts of local, regional, or state goals for ecosystem integrity on the value of foregone development. The framework will rely on a classification of land according to ecological-oriented qualities and development-oriented qualities. Using a stylized amphibian species, with different dispersal characteristics in relation to land use, the investigators will model the link between metapopulation persistence, number of occupied habitat patches, and expected duration of occupancy. Land use characteristics will include the influence of economic benefits of land development on the probability that a land parcel is developed.

Expected Results:

The research will improve the integration of economic and ecological science for use in policy decisions, especially in relation to state or local policies associated with wetland conservation. Results may alter intuitive advice of both economists and ecologists. For example, heterogeneity in habitat quality may reverse the economic advice for developers to pursue land parcels associated with the highest economic rents, while accounting for the economic value of land development may modify ecologists advice to focus conservation effort on habitats with a high diversity. Therefor, the research may aid, for example, state or local efforts to maintain ecosystem integrity cost-effectively.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 26 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 7 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

community-based, decision-making, public policy, wetland regulation, conservation biology, conservation reserve network, cost-effective ecosystem protection., RFA, Economic, Social, & Behavioral Science Research Program, Scientific Discipline, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Ecosystem/Assessment/Indicators, Ecosystem Protection, Economics, decision-making, Ecology and Ecosystems, Economics & Decision Making, Social Science, ecological exposure, ecosystem integrity, decision making, vernal pool ecosystems, wetland regulation, cost-effective ecosystem protection, environmental values, environmental policy, vernal pools, ecosystem integrity and residential development, residential development, community-based, conservation biology, public policy, cost-effective ecosysem protection, cost effectiveness

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2002 Progress Report
  • 2003 Progress Report
  • 2004 Progress Report
  • 2005
  • Final Report