Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Natural Resources

First Advisor

Troy, Austin


Urban and regional development decisions have long-term, often irreversible impacts on the natural and built environment. These changes impact society’s wellbeing, yet rarely occur in the context of well understood economic costs and benefits. The cumulative effects of these individually small land use decisions are also very large. Ecological economics provides several frameworks that could inform more sustainable development patterns and practices, including ecosystem service valuation (ESV) and the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI). This dissertation consists of a series of articles addressing urban and regional development from an ecological economic perspective, using GPI, ESV, and evaluation of tax and subsidy programs. The GPI has been well developed at the national level but is of growing interest to stakeholders and citizens interested in better measuring social welfare at local and regional scales. By integrating measures of built, human, social, and natural capital, GPI provides a more comprehensive assessment of social welfare than consumption-based macroeconomic indicators. GPI’s monetary basis allows these diverse metrics to be integrated, and can also facilitate intra- and inter-regional comparisons of social welfare. Ecosystem services are also increasingly recognized as important contributors to human well-being, particularly in areas where they are becoming scarce due to rapid land conversion. Despite recent advances in measuring and valuing ecosystem services, they are often not considered in decision making because of both scientific uncertainty and the difficulty in weighing these values in tradeoffs. Techniques to speed the valuation process while maintaining accuracy are thus in high demand. As public recognition of the value of ecosystem services grows, ESV can serve as the basis for a variety of policy tools, from inclusion in traditional permitting or conservation easement programs to new programs such as payments for ecosystem services. Ideally planners, citizens, and decision makers would better weigh the diverse costs and benefits of land use decisions as part of development and conservation planning. By quantifying changes in: 1) contributors to social welfare and 2) the value of ecosystem services across the urban-rural gradient, the GPI and ESV frameworks developed as part of this dissertation can thus be used to better inform local and regional policy and planning.