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Research: 'Modern Portfolio Theory' optimizes conservation practices
Date:5/15/2012

llar-spent that is 15 percent higher for the same level of risk.

Modern Portfolio Theory-based portfolios also can have 21 percent less uncertainty over benefits, or 6 percent greater expected benefits, than the current portfolio of Prairie Pothole Region conservation, according to the study.

"In this case, Modern Portfolio Theory shows conservation planners how to choose a portfolio that sacrifices a little bit of your expected conservation benefits but also reduces the uncertainty for your overall outcomes in the future," Ando said. "So if you don't like risk, you can reduce it."

The results of the paper show conservation groups and federal agencies how to cost-effectively divide conservation effort between sub-regions of the Prairie Pothole Region to reduce conservation-outcome uncertainty. There is a trade-off between uncertainty and the expected value of habitat quality, the researchers say. Planners, however, can choose the portfolio that best satisfies their risk preferences given their assumptions about the likelihood of climate change.

"In one climate scenario, you might have one tract of land that yields the best results," Ando said. "In another climate scenario, the other tract of land might be better. So if you have a little bit of both, you've hedged your risk."

Ando says previous research in the field suggested some approaches to cope with such uncertainty but ultimately didn't harness all of the benefits of risk diversification.

"When you're doing this kind of analysis it's important to pay attention to costs," she said. "Because if you only focus on the conservation benefits and ignore costs, then you can end up choosing land that might have great benefits but is really expensive. And if you have a limited budget to spend on conservation, then you have a small amount of land that you're able to buy. So you have high benefits per acre, but you don't have many acres. If you build costs into the anal
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Contact: Phil Ciciora
pciciora@illinois.edu
217-333-2177
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert  

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