An Interdisciplinary Exploration of the Intersection between Economic Value and Ecological Quality to Inform Palouse Prairie Conservation Thesis uri icon

Overview

abstract

  • Thesis (Ph.D., Environmental Science) -- University of Idaho, 2016 | The Palouse Prairie is a critically endangered ecosystem located in northern Idaho and eastern Washington. Its successful conservation will require an understanding of its ecological functioning to determine how best to restore function to degraded sites and the social value for conservation to understand the region’s priorities and preferences. This dissertation explores the nuances of calculating the economic value of ecological quality in six chapters. The first chapter provides a brief history of the Palouse Prairie and provides context for how it has arrived at its current degraded state. The second chapter assesses the positive and negative effects of alternative methods for presenting ecological quality to respondents within a choice experiment survey; it evaluates the significance of sociodemographic variables on whether residents choose to conserve or not conserve Palouse Prairie, and it compares the relative importance of the attributes on Palouse Prairie conservation. Economic value for Palouse Prairie conservation was determined based on a choice experiment that includes the attributes of size, ecological quality, the giant Palouse earthworm, rare plants, public access, and cost. The third chapter evaluates the interaction between sense of place and economic value. It considers perspectives on whether or not it is appropriate to use a monetary value to inform conservation decisions and it evaluates the importance, qualitatively, of the Palouse Prairie to residents and their families. The fourth chapter uses economic values from the choice experiment and generates a composite measure of ecological quality using factor analysis to assign an indirect willingness to pay for individual measures of ecological quality. The fifth chapter evaluates the importance of culturally significant plants on the Palouse Prairie through an alternative valuation methodology based on semi-structured interviews and a general population survey which focuses on the perspectives of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations. The final chapter summarizes the significance of the work and provides an overview of how the results can be integrated into policy. An Interdisciplinary approach was central to the development, analysis, and interpretation of this research.

publication date

  • June 1, 2016

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