Ecosystem Economics of Rural Landscapes and Land-Use ChangeEPA Grant Number: U915928
Title: Ecosystem Economics of Rural Landscapes and Land-Use Change
Investigators: Bauer, Dana M.
Institution: University of Rhode Island
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: January 1, 2001 through January 1, 2003
Project Amount: $102,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2001) RFA Text | Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Environmental Justice , Fellowship - Economics
The objectives of this research project are to: (1) understand the economic and ecological interactions that contribute to particular land-development patterns and corresponding levels of ecosystem health; and (2) assess the implications of existing or potential land-use policies on the ecosystem-economic dynamics of rural land-use change. Wetland conservation is generally based on prohibition of most development activities within the wetland itself and a narrow wetland buffer or "donut" surrounding the wetland. This type of policy may not result in the optimal land-development pattern, particularly in terms of the maintenance of ecosystem health on a landscape scale. Current wetland regulations provide economic incentives for development to occur in upland areas, creating a highly fragmented landscape. For some wetland species that spend part of their life histories within wetland areas and other parts in upland areas, and where metapopulation dynamics require dispersal across the landscape, this loss of upland habitat can adversely impact the ecological viability of species populations.
I will develop a conceptual bioeconomic model for assessing the dynamics of rural land-use change and its effect on ecosystem health within a spatial-landscape matrix. The model will use a stylized version of a rural landscape with a small number of currently developed land parcels surrounded by an agricultural and wooded landscape. Land parcels will be characterized by economic and ecological parameters, which determine both the likelihood that the parcel will be developed and the value of the parcel for maintaining ecological health, as indicated by amphibian metapopulation dynamics. The model will utilize an optimal control theory framework, whereby optimal development patterns over space and time can be determined for particular input parameters. The optimization will be constrained by restrictions requiring the sustenance of amphibian metapopulations as development proceeds. The potential for developers to capture land rents under the metapopulation constraint will be compared to the level of rents captured under full development permitted by existing or potential wetland regulations. The model will allow for the examination of various development policy options and different levels of ecosystem health.