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Research Project: Understanding Water-Driven Ecohydrologic and Erosion Processes in the Semiarid Southwest to Improve Watershed Management

Location: Southwest Watershed Research Center

Title: Developing ecological endpoints for valuation of semi-arid riparian ecosystem services

item BROADBENT, C.D. - Illinois Wesleyan University
item BROOKSHIRE, D.S. - University Of New Mexico
item Goodrich, David - Dave
item DIXON, M.D. - University Of South Dakota
item BRAND, A. - Us Geological Survey (USGS)
item THACHER, J. - University Of New England

Submitted to: Journal of Environmental Planning and Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/11/2022
Publication Date: 6/21/2022
Citation: Broadbent, C., Brookshire, D., Goodrich, D.C., Dixon, M., Brand, A., Thacher, J. 2022. Developing ecological endpoints for valuation of semi-arid riparian ecosystem services. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management.

Interpretive Summary: Ecosystems throughout the world provide mankind with a variety of marketable and non-marketable goods and services that provide life support systems. Mankind’s use of natural ecosystems has sparked a debate in the literature on how to quantify and account for these systems in economic terms. Despite the importance of ecosystem services to mankind, they are often overlooked or taken for granted in typical benefit cost analyses. Economists have utilized survey-based methods to value non-marketed goods and services such as freshwater systems for much of the last four decades. Working with natural scientists a set of ecological end-products were developed and valued in monetary terms for the Middle Rio Grande and San Pedro Rivers in the southwestern United States. These valuation surveys are expensive. Consequently, benefit transfer techniques, for assigning the values of ecosystem services for similar systems have become more popular in the published literature due to their ability to provide quick and inexpensive estimates for valuation. The ability to transfer benefits between these two river systems was tested in this study. As this study has highlighted, the accuracy of point estimate benefit transfers deteriorate as the target site’s characteristics differ from those of the study site used for valuation.

Technical Abstract: Creating measureable ecological accounting units has become a point of emphasis in valuing ecosystem services. Understanding which ecological endpoints, which emanate from biophysical production functions, are important to individuals could help to create measurable ecological accounting units. Using two semi-arid riparian ecosystems we create a suite of ecological endpoints and using benefits transfer techniques, compare their ability to be transferred to similar riparian ecosystems. If clearly defined, ecological accounting units can be developed for ecosystem services this could lead to ecosystem services being incorporated into benefit cost analyses which may decrease the overuse of ecosystems.