Events & Media

The Bren School of Environmental Science & Management
at the University of California, Santa Barbara


PhD Defense

Jason Kreitler

Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011

9:00 a.m.
Bren Hall Oak Room (1520)

"Ecosystem services and cost-effective conservation planning"

Frank Davis, Faculty Advisor
Committee Members: Tom Dunne, James Frew

My research addresses three areas in the fields of conservation planning and environmental management, with the intent of introducing planners to new information and quantitative methods to make better conservation decisions. In the first chapter I model the ecosystem service of recreation in Puget Sound, WA, to understand the spatial heterogeneity in recreational usage, and determine how water quality variation affects visitation to state parks. The results of a visitation model illustrate how visitation relates to various amenities and costs. In a fixed effects analysis, visitation was negatively related to water quality while controlling for seasonal trends and other time-variant factors. This indicates people are responding to changes in water quality, and an improvement would yield an increase in the value of recreation. The results of both models are useful for the prioritization of water quality improvement and other natural resource management projects. 

In chapters 2 and 3 I use a farmland conservation planning case study to investigate two methodological improvements to the utility maximization problem of conservation planning. First I design an optimal integer programming routine and compare it to a greedy selection algorithm in a utility maximization problem. I also quantify the efficiency of the targeting algorithm when site availability is a stochastic process reflective of land use change. I show the optimal IP formulation outperforms the greedy heuristic by 8%. When site availability is a stochastic process with fewer available parcels, the IP solution is again higher than the greedy, and the accumulated utility is 70% - 88% of the full IP solution. This study is unique in its use of integer programming in a multicriteria utility maximization approach, and has many other potential applications in conservation planning and natural resource management.

In chapter 3, I model conservation easement costs in the same farmland case study to determine how easement value affects conservation priorities. The inclusion of cost information in conservation plans has repeatedly demonstrated improvements in conservation efficiency and effectiveness, yet it is not often considered. Similarly, the conservation easement is a tool often used by conservation organizations, but rarely used in large scale planning activities. To address these shortcomings I estimate the value of conservation easements using two types of spatial hedonic models with observed farmland transactions and agricultural assessment data. I then prioritize conservation actions according to each set of data, and find differences in priorities. Since the value of development rights and agricultural value can be quite different at a given site, easements cannot be calculated as a simple fraction of total value, justifying the extra steps required to model conservation easements. If the full acquisition cost of a parcel is used in planning instead of easement value, priorities may be incorrect or inefficient at meeting conservation targets.


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