Date of Award

2018

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Natural Resources

First Advisor

Taylor H. Ricketts

Second Advisor

Gillian L. Galford

Abstract

Supporting a growing human population while avoiding biodiversity loss is a central challenge towards a sustainable future. Ecosystem services are benefits that people derive from nature. People have drastically altered the earth’s land surface in the pursuit of those ecosystem services that have been ascribed market value, while at the same time eroding biodiversity and non-market ecosystem services. The science required to inform a more balanced vision for land-cover change in the future is rapidly developing, but critical questions remain unanswered regarding how to quantify ecosystem services and ascribe value to them, and how to coordinate efforts to safeguard multiple ecosystem services and biodiversity together. This dissertation addresses several of these challenges using Vermont as a model landscape. Specifically, we begin by estimating the economic value of flood mitigation ecosystem services and show that the externalized value of ecosystem services can be quite high. Second, we assess the role of demand from human beneficiaries in shifting the spatial distribution of ecosystem services, and address the biodiversity and human wellbeing implications of that shift. Third we analyze the tradeoffs and synergies inherent in pursing multiple ecosystem services and biodiversity through conservation, and show that overall ecosystem service conservation is more likely to boost biodiversity outcomes than to undermine them. Finally, I implement statewide scenarios of land-cover change and flood risk in order to assess our ability to quantify ecosystem service outcomes and identify spatial priorities for the future despite land-cover change dynamics that are complex and unpredictable.

Language

en

Number of Pages

211 p.

Available for download on Wednesday, March 28, 2018

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