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Financial tool considered climate change uncertainty to select land for conservation
Date:5/21/2012

climate change wasn't a problem so conservationists weren't even looking at diversifying," Ando said. "More recently, people have been thinking like that old phrase 'don't put all of your eggs in one basket' so simple diversification would be the first natural step to take and you wouldn't need a mathematical model. But buying some land in each area doesn't work very well."

The researchers modeled different future regional climate scenarios using historic conditions, warming of 2 and 4 degrees Celsius and a 10 percent increase in precipitation in the Prairie Pothole Region.

"What we found was that when we looked at benefits only, the area in the east was best," Mallory said. "But when we considered both benefits and costs, the less expensive land in the central area achieved the highest expected benefit."

Ando said there are major cost factors for buying the land or putting land under conservation easement. The eastern portion of the region includes Minnesota and Iowa, which are high land-cost states, became a big driver of their results.

"Setting aside land in that area for conservation is pretty expensive," Ando said. "In our study, we didn't include restoration of the land, which would result in additional costs."

Ando said their results showed that if climate change wasn't likely, "the current Fish and Wildlife holdings were pretty close to being on the efficient frontier. And while simple diversification schemes may be appealing, they did not perform well. Before we began the research, we didn't realize just how important it would be to think carefully about the diversification and not just divide the investment between the regions."

Mallory said that one of the biggest challenges of implementing this approach in planning is that to truly use this method it's important to know the probability distribution of the climate change outcomes.

"It's a really hard question, even for climate scientists
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Contact: Debra Levey Larson
dlarson@illinois.edu
217-244-2880
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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