Integrating Economic and Physical Data to Forecast Land Use Change and Environmental Consequences for California's Coastal Watersheds.

EPA Grant Number: R829803
Title: Integrating Economic and Physical Data to Forecast Land Use Change and Environmental Consequences for California's Coastal Watersheds.
Investigators: Merenlender, Adina , Biging, Greg , Landis, John
Institution: University of California - Berkeley
EPA Project Officer: Michaud, Jayne
Project Period: July 1, 2002 through June 30, 2004
Project Amount: $259,454
RFA: Futures: Research in Socio-Economics (2001) RFA Text
Research Category: Nanotechnology , Economics and Decision Sciences , Water and Watersheds


The purpose of this research is to examine the environmental consequences of land use change for California's coastal watersheds that are experiencing rapid urban and agricultural expansion. These foremost land use stresses can result in cumulative impacts to these coastal watersheds that impact anadromous fish. The specific objectives are to (1) develop a spatially explicit economic land use change model, (2) compare the proposed economic modeling approach to a more traditional non-economic (or reduced form) land use model, (3) determine changes in land cover based on the resulting scenarios of land use change, and (4) address consequences for coastal Mediterranean watersheds and instream habitat for endangered salmon.


Our primary task will be to develop an economic land use change model which links parcel-level transactions to site and neighborhood characteristics. This economic approach will be compared to a more traditional non-economic (or reduced-form) approach that uses only physical variables within a geographic information system (GIS).

The economic land use change model being proposed will be based on a two-stage process: 1) hedonic models of land value for each use type and 2) a discrete choice model to predict land conversion probabilities. The spatial hedonic model of land values will be determined separately for three land use types: rural residential, vineyard, and "extensive use" land. Land values from recently sold parcels for each use type are regressed as a function of the site and neighborhood characteristics (i.e. slope, soil, accessibility to urban centers, zoning, etc.). Subsequently, the estimated value by use type will be determined for all parcels in the region of "developable" land, based on the each parcel's site characteristics and the hedonic price model parameters.

In the second stage, a multinomial discrete choice model of land conversion is determined at a parcel-level using the estimated land value for each of the three land uses as exogenous variables, as well as other costs of conversion variables. The model output is a probability map representing the value of future residential and vineyard development for each "developable" land parcel.

Regulatory agencies recognize that activities such as urban development and intensive agriculture can negatively affect water quality and instream habitat for salmonids. The various scenarios of land use change resulting from this proposed modeling approach will be combined with existing models from our ongoing research in the Russian River Basin on the influence of land use on stream habitat, cumulative impacts, and other potential environmental costs.

Expected Results:

This research will provide new techniques that will allow for spatial economic models of land use change. The resulting future scenarios of land use change will be used as input for biophysical watershed models, which are being developed to examine the effects of land cover on stream habitat quality for coastal salmon. These improved approaches to modeling agriculture and urban development and its impacts on the environment will provide better tools for setting conservation priorities in regions facing agricultural and urban sprawl issues.

In summary, this research is designed to improve land use change forecasting using spatially explicit economic models. These models will then be used to predict cumulative watershed effects of land use change in coastal California with a particular focus on anadromous fish habitat.

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 3 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

biodiversity, farmer, land owner, ecosystem, decision-making, socio-economic, agroecology, biology, northwest, social science, ecology, environmental assets, cost- benefit, RFA, Economic, Social, & Behavioral Science Research Program, Scientific Discipline, Air, Geographic Area, Water, ECOSYSTEMS, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Hydrology, Water & Watershed, climate change, State, Air Pollution Effects, Monitoring/Modeling, Habitat, Species, decision-making, Urban and Regional Planning, Atmosphere, Social Science, Watersheds, Economics & Decision Making, ecosystem valuation, environmental monitoring, urbanization, coastal wetlands, habitat dynamics, biodiversity, coastal watershed, endangered species, fish habitat, policy making, watershed, economic research, urban planning, assessing ecosystem vulnerability, environmental decision making, land use effects, decision making, socioeconomics, management alternatives, community based environmental planning, endangered salmon, habitat disturbance, environmental policy, predictive model, hedonic models, water quality, coastal ecosystems, changing environmental conditions, conservation biology, urbanizing watersheds, watershed sustainablility, Anadromous fish, ecology assessment models, California (CA), land use, econometric analysis, econometrics, aquatic habitat protection

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2003 Progress Report
  • Final Report