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Taylor Ricketts, Rubenstein School

New paper: mapping marginal values

Ecological Applications

A paper by Taylor and colleague Eric Lonsdorf was published this month, on estimating the marginal values of ecosystem services across landscapes.  

Mapping the margin: comparing marginal values of tropical forest remnants for pollination services 

Abstract. Natural ecosystems benefit human communities by providing ecosystem services such as water purification and crop pollination. Mapping ecosystem service values has become popular, but most are static snapshots of average value. Estimating instead the economic impacts of specific ecosystem changes can better inform typical resource decisions. Here we develop an approach to mapping marginal values, those resulting from the next unit of ecosystem change, across landscapes. We demonstrate the approach with a recent model of crop pollination services in Costa Rica, simulating deforestation events to predict resulting marginal changes in pollination services to coffee farms. We find that marginal losses from deforestation vary from zero to US$700/ha across the landscape. Financial risks for farmers from these losses and marginal benefits of forest restoration show similar spatial variation. Marginal values are concentrated in relatively few forest parcels not identified using average value. These parcels lack substitutes: nearby forest parcels that can supply services in the event of loss. Indeed, the marginal value of forest parcels declines exponentially with the density of surrounding forest cover. The approach we develop is applicable to any ecosystem service. Combined with information on costs, it can help target conservation or restoration efforts to optimize benefits to people and biodiversity. 

Ricketts, T.H. and E. Lonsdorf. Ecological Applications, 23(5), 2013, pp. 1113–1123    

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