Silvia Secchi Presentation

Nov 17, 2016
W401 PBB

Speaker: Silvia Secchi

Thursday, November 17th | 2-3:30 PM | W401PBB

Accounting for the value of ecosystem services is difficult, as multiple changes in material fluxes or ecological responses have to be quantified, and then the value of the services has to be monetized. Though the integrated modeling process necessary for the multiple valuation is challenging, it is necessary in order to avoid unintended consequences, and to help identify future challenges and opportunities for better policy-making.

Agricultural production, being at the nexus of water, food and carbon, is a good example of the need to account for multiple ecosystem services. The study’s area, the Raccoon River watershed, combines intensive agricultural production, high carbon sequestration potential via cellulosic ethanol production, and high nitrate levels, which have resulted into a Total Maximum Daily Load and a ground-breaking lawsuit from the Des Moines Water Works. 

The study integrates statistically downscaled climate models for the 21st century with a surface water quality model (the Soil and Water Assessment Tool) and an edge of field environmental model (the Environmental Policy Integrated Climate). This simultaneously provides changes in crop yields, water quality indicators – particularly nitrogen, which can be monetized using the avoided cost method – and carbon sequestration – for which monetary values are readily available in the literature, and are been assessed by the Federal government.

Quantifying the provision of multiple ecosystem services which may be in conflict with each other is crucial for effective conservation and agricultural policies. Monetizing ecosystem services allows for the direct comparison of the policies’ costs and benefits, and assessment of the trade-offs.