Advertisement

Environmental and Resource Economics

, Volume 71, Issue 4, pp 985–999 | Cite as

A Cautionary Note on the Use of Benefit Metrics for Cost-Effective Conservation

  • Jacob R. FooksEmail author
  • Kent D. Messer
  • Maik Kecinski
Article

Abstract

Cost-effective land conservation techniques, such as optimization, have the potential to contribute substantially to the provision of many important environmental benefits, such as biodiversity protection, flood control, food security, water quality, and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. There has been a recent push for conservation organizations to adopt project selection optimization approaches such as binary linear programming. The metrics used to measure the benefits of a project however, are often poorly defined in that they do not directly compute a value. These scores represent normalized measurements of underlying values that are likely log-normally distributed. Applying such metrics in optimization will tend to undervalue high-benefit projects and select a suboptimal portfolio of projects relative to simpler approaches. This suboptimal performance can lead to losses in efficiency as high as 30%. We propose a hybrid optimization heuristic that can improve performance and, additionally, provide conservation professionals with more flexibility and freedom to select conservation projects at their discretion—potentially overcoming a substantial real-world adaptation hurdle.

Keywords

Conservation optimization Binary linear programming Environmental index 

References

  1. Ahrens LH (1954) The log-normal distribution of the elements: a fundamental law of geochemistry and its subsidiary. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 5:49–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Albers HJ, Ando AW, Batz M (2008) Patterns of multi-agent land conservation: crowding in/out, agglomeration, and policy. Resour Energy Econ 30(4):492–508CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Albers HJ, Ando AW, Bu M, Wing MG (2012) Road-network agglomeration, road density, and protected-area fragmentation. Lett Spat Resour Sci 5(3):137–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Alix-García J, de Janvry A, Sadoulet E, Torres JM (2005) An assessment of Mexico’s payment for environmental services program. United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  5. American Farmland Trust (2010) “Status of State PACE Programs” web page. www.farmland.org. Accessed 17 March 2010
  6. Ando A, Camm J, Polasky S, Solow A (1998) Species distributions, land values, and efficient conservation. Science 279:2126–2128CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Arnold M, Duke JM, Messer KD (2013) Adverse selection in reverse auctions for ecosystem services. Land Econ 89(3):387–412CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Ashkar F, Aucoin F (2012) Discriminating between the lognormal and the log-logistic distributions for hydrological frequency analysis. J Hydrol Eng 17(1):160–167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Azzaino Z, Conrad JM, Ferarro P (2002) Optimizing the Riparian Buffer: Harold Brook in the Skaneateles Lake Watershed, New York. Land Econ 78(4):501–514CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Babcock BA, Lakshminarayan PG, Wu J, Zilberman D (1997) Targeting tools for the purchase of environmental amenities. Land Econ 73(3):325–339CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Balmford A, Gaston K (1999) Why biodiversity surveys are good value. Nature 398:204–205CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Banerjee S, Kwasnica AM, Shortle JS (2015) Information and auction performance: a laboratory study of conservation auctions for spatially contiguous land management. Environ Resour Econ 61(3):409–431CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Banzhaf HS (2010) Economics at the fringe: non-market valuation studies and their role in land use plans in the United States. J Environ Manag 91(3):592–602CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Barton DN, Faith D, Rusch G, Gjershaug JO, Castro M, Vega M, Vega E (2003) Spatial prioritization of environmental service payments for biodiversity protection. Report SNR 4746/2003, Norwegian Institute for Water Research, Oslo, NorwayGoogle Scholar
  15. Bellenger MJ, Herlihy AT (2009) An economic approach to environmental indices. Ecol Econ 68(8):2216–2223CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Biondini R (1976) Cloud motion and rainfall statistics. J Appl Meteorol 15(205):224Google Scholar
  17. Boyd J, Banzhaf S (2007) What are ecosystem services? the need for standardized environmental accounting units. Ecol Econ 63(2):616–626CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Bryan BA, Raymond C, Crossman ND, King D (2011) Comparing spatially explicit ecological and social values for natural areas to identify effective conservation strategies. Conserv Biol 25(1):172–181CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Caprara A, Fischetti M, Toth P (1998) Algorithms for the set covering problem. Ann Oper Res 98:2000Google Scholar
  20. Cahn MD, Hummel JW, Brouer BH (1994) Spatial analysis of soil fertility for site-specific crop management. Soil Sci Soc Am J 58:1240–1248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Distaso A (2007) Well-being and/or quality of life in EU countries through a multidimensional index of sustainability. Ecol Econ 64(1):163–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Dosskey MG (2001) Toward quantifying water pollution abatement in response to installing buffers on crop land. Environ Manag 28(5):577–598CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Duke JM, Dundas SJ, Messer KD (2013) Cost-effective conservation planning: lessons from economics. J Environ Manag 125:126–133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Duke JD, Dundas SJ, Johnston RJ, Messer KD (2014) Prioritizing payment for environmental services: using nonmarket benefits for optimal selection. Ecol Econ 105:319–329CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Duke JM, Dundas SJ, Johnston RJ, Messer KD (2015) The effect of spatial interdependencies on prioritization and payments for environmental services. Land Use Policy 48:341–350CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Farm Services Agency (2011) Conservation Reserve Program Sign-up 41 Environmental Benefits Index (EBI). www.fsa.usda.gov/Internet/FSA_File/ crp_41_ebi.pdfGoogle Scholar
  27. Ferraro PJ (2003) Assigning priority to environmental policy interventions in a heterogeneous world. J Policy Anal Manag 22(1):27–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Fooks JR, Messer KD (2012) Maximizing conservation and in-kind cost share: Applying Goal Programming to forest protection. For Econ 18:207–217Google Scholar
  29. Fooks JR, Messer KD (2013) Mathematical programming applications to land conservation and environmental quality. In: Yu T, Chawla N, Simoff S (eds) Computational intelligent data analysis for sustainable development. CRC Group, Taylor & Francis Group, Boca RatonGoogle Scholar
  30. Fooks JR, Messer KD, Duke JM (2015) Dynamic entry, reverse auctions, and the purchase of environmental services. Land Econ 91(1):57–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Fooks JR, Higgins N, Messer KD, Duke JM, Hellerstein D, Lynch L (2016) Conserving spatially explicit benefits in ecosystem service markets: experimental tests of network bonuses and spatial targeting. Am J Agri Econ 98(2):468–488CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Geoghegan J (2002) The value of open spaces in residential land use. Land Use Policy 19(1):91–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Good TP, Harms TK, Ruckelshaus MH (2003) Misuse of checklist assessments in endangered species recovery efforts. Conserv Ecol 7(2). http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol7/iss2/art12/Google Scholar
  34. Grand L, Messer KD, Allen W (2017) Understanding and overcoming the barriers for cost-effective conservation. Ecol Econ 138:139–144CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Grosso A, Locatelli M, Pullan W (2008) Simple ingredients leading to very efficient heuristics for the maximum clique problem. J Heuristics 14(6):587–612CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Hadj-Alouane AB, Bean JC (1997) A genetic algorithm for the multiple-choice integer program. Oper Res 45(1):92–101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Hamaide B, Albers HJ, Busby G (2014) Backup coverage models in nature reserve site selection with spatial spread risk heterogeneity. Socio Econ Plan Sci 48(2):158–167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Jansson T (2007) Econometric specification of constrained optimization models. Dissertationen der landwirtschaftlichen Fakultät, Universität BonnGoogle Scholar
  39. Juutinen A, Mönkkönen M (2004) Testing alternative indicators for biodiversity conservation in old-growth boreal forests: ecology and economics. Ecol Econ 50:35–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Kaiser HM, Messer KD (2011) Mathematical programming for agricultural, environmental, and resource economics. Wiley, HobokenGoogle Scholar
  41. Kirwan B, Lubowski RN, Robert MJ (2005) How cost-effective are land retirement auctions? estimating the difference between payments and willingness to accept in the conservation reserve program. Am J Agric Econ 87(5):1239–1247CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Krieg DG (1966) A study of gold and uranium distribution patterns in the Klerksdorp Gold Field. Geoexploration 4:43–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Kroeger T (2013) The quest for the “optimal” payment for environmental services program: ambition meets reality, with useful lessons. For Policy Econ 37:65–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Land H, Doig AG (1960) An automatic method of solving discrete programming problems. Econometrica 28(3):497–520CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Limpert E, Stahel WA, Abbt M (2001) Log-Normal distributions across the sciences: keys and clues. BioScience 51(5):341–352CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Lynch L, Tjaden R (2000) When a Landowner Adopts a Riparian Buffer: Benefits and Costs. Fact sheet 774, Maryland Cooperative ExtensionGoogle Scholar
  47. Magurran AE (1988) Ecological diversity and its measurement. Croom Helm, LondonCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Maron M, Rhodes JR, Gibbons P (2013) Calculating the benefit of conservation actions. Conserv Lett 6(5):359–367Google Scholar
  49. Master L (1991) Assessing threats and setting priorities for conservation. Conserv Biol 5:559–563CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Mehtälä J, Vuorisalo T (2007) Conservation policy and the EU Habitats Directive: favourable conservation status as a measure of conservation success. Environ Policy Gov 17(6):363–375Google Scholar
  51. Messer KD, Allen WL (2010) Applying optimization and the analytic hierarchy process to enhance agricultural preservation strategies in the state of Delaware. Agric Resour Econ Rev 39(3):442–456CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Messer KD, Kecinski M, Tang X, Hirsch R (2016a) Applying multiple knapsack optimization to improve the cost effectiveness of land conservation. Land Econ 92(1):117–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Messer KD, Kecinski M, Liu Z, Korch M, Bounds T (2016b) Military readiness and environmental protection through cost-effective land conservation. Land Econ 92(1):433–449CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Messer KD, Allen WL, Kecinski M, Chen Y (2016c) Agricultural preservation professionals’ perceptions and attitudes about cost-effective land selection methods. J Soil Water Conserv 71(2):148–155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Metrick A, Weitzman ML (1996) Patterns of behavior in endangered species preservation. Land Econ 72:1–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Muñoz-Piña C, Guevara A, Torres JM, Braña J (2008) Paying for the hydrological services of Mexico’s forests: analysis, negotiations and results. Ecol Econ 65(4):725–736CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Ott WR (1978) Environmental indices. Ann Arbor Science, Ann ArborGoogle Scholar
  58. Polasky S, Camm JD, Garber-Yonts B (2001) Selecting biological reserves cost-effectively: an application to terrestrial vertebrate conservation in Oregon. Land Econ 77(1):68–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Prendergast JR, Quinn RM, Lawton JH (1999) The gaps between theory and practice in selecting nature reserves. Conserv Biol 13(3):484–492CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Pullan W, Mascia F, Brunato M (2011) Cooperating local search for the maximum clique problem. J Heuristics 17(2):181–199CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Solomon S (2008) A comparison of ranking methods for normalizing scores. Doctoral Dissertation, College of Education, Wayne State UniversityGoogle Scholar
  62. Underhill LG (1994) Optimal and suboptimal reserve selection algorithms. Biol Conserv 105:103–111Google Scholar
  63. U.S. Department of Agriculture (2009) Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces $1.7 Billion in Conservation Reserve Program Rental Payments. USDA Newsroom, www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA/newsReleases?area=newsroom&subject=landing&topic=ner&newstype=newsrel&type=detail&item=nr_20091007_rel_0497.html
  64. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Farm Service Agency (2014) Conservation reserve program statistics. http://www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA/webapp?area=home&subject=copr&topic=crp-st
  65. Wichmann B, Boxall P, Wilson S, Pergery O (2016) Auctioning risky conservation contracts. Environ Resour Econ 1–34Google Scholar
  66. Wu J, Adams RM, Boggess G (2000) Cumulative effects and optimal targeting of conservation efforts: steelhead trout habitat enhancement in Oregon. Am J Agric Econ 82(2):400–413CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Wünscher T, Engel S, Wunder S (2006) Payments for environmental services in Costa Rica: increasing efficiency through spatial differentiation. Q J Int Agric 45(4):319–337Google Scholar

Copyright information

© This is a U.S. government work and its text is not subject to copyright protection in the United States; however, its text may be subject to foreign copyright protection. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Conservation and Environment BranchU.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research ServiceWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Applied Economics & StatisticsUniversity of DelawareNewarkUSA
  3. 3.Resource Economics and Environmental SociologyUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

Personalised recommendations