Non-market value of watershed management enhancements: An integration of hydro-ecologic and economic assessments
    Funding: U.S. Department of Agriculture - National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
    Program area: Agriculture Economics and Rural Communities - Environment
    Project duration: January 16, 2016 - January 15, 2020

    Non-technical Summary
    The ecosystem services provided by freshwater systems are fundamentally important to humans. Aside from providing clean water for domestic and agriculture use, our rivers and lakes support basic ecological processes and vital economic services including navigation, fisheries and recreational opportunities. Improvements in watershed managements to enhance these services have been the focus of conservation endeavors for many years. Quantifying the effects of these improvements in terms of their economic values can provide understanding into the trade-offs between environmental decisions and market activities. This research proposes to develop a framework that integrates hydrologic, ecosystem, and economic assessments to quantify non-market values of watershed management improvements. Three ecosystem services will be used as metrics to assess the non-market values of scenario-based watershed management: (1) water clarity, which will be represented by sediment load in the river, (2) nutrient reduction, and (3) fish species richness. We will use integrated physically-based watershed, river, water quality, and ecosystem models to quantity the changes in ecosystem services due to scenario-based watershed management schemes. The integrated models will provide more robust inputs to the ecosystem and economic models. The ecosystem model will simulate the relationship between flow characteristics and fish species richness. The hydrologic and ecosystem models will be developed under current and projected climate change scenarios considering their spatial variability across the watershed. Outputs from the hydrologic and ecosystem models will be used as the basis to design a choice experiment survey to elicit the values people place on the ecosystem services that are improved. We anticipate that our work will provide significant outcomes that will impact watershed management and adoption of sustainable agriculture in the watershed. The development of a comprehensive framework that allows integration of climate, watershed hydrology, ecosystem, and economic assessments will facilitate the development of a decision support system to address timely implementation, focused adaptation, and mitigation practices or policies for sustainable agriculture while supporting important ecosystem services.