SNAPP: Better Land-Use Decisions

A Policy for Biodiveristy, Ecosystem Services, and Economic Returns

Principal Investigator(s): 

Stephen Polasky, Derric Pennington, Carlos Durigan, Joe Fargione

There are tradeoffs and synergies between biodiversity conservation, ecosystem services, and economic productivity that are not usually considered when decisions are made about land use or investments in land protection or policy. Overlooking such tradeoffs often results in low return-on-investment for conservation expenditures and unintended consequences of policy decisions. This project will develop and apply spatially explicit, integrated models of land-use change, habitat for biodiversity, ecosystem service provision and economic productivity in up to five decision contexts in Brazil and the United States. In Brazil, the project has identified pathways to implementation that would help inform the Amazon Region Protected Areas program, certification initiatives regarding Brazil’s forest code, and policies to guide agricultural development in the Brazilian Pantanal. In the U.S., they have identified pathways to implementation in agricultural policy in the Northern Great Plains and the Sage Grouse Initiative. By simultaneously considering multiple objectives and alternative spatial arrangements of land use, we will chart a path towards maximizing benefits for both human well-being and nature conservation.

This project will build off of existing land-use change models developed by working group members in both the U.S. and Brazil, and use these models to evaluate alternative scenarios and optimize conservation investments in specific decision-making contexts in both countries. A distinguishing feature from the U.S. models is the explicit incorporation of net economic returns to land for alternative land-uses (crops, forestry, urban, pasture) as a driver of land-use change. In addition, the will incorporate price feedback effects from large-scale land-use changes to account for the fact that such changes (e.g., from forest to crops) will likely shift the supply of key commodities and therefore shift both commodity prices and net economic returns to land. Dollar measures of net returns to land and price feedbacks from land-use changes are not typically incorporated in geographically-based methods. Further, the project will link the land-use change model with ecosystem service provision models (including carbon storage, water provision, water quality, non-timber forest products) as well as habitat for biodiversity.

This project is generously funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and supported by the Science for Nature and People Partnership (SNAPP).

More information for project participants Visit the SNAPP Website