Date of Award

Spring 5-10-2019

Level of Access

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Forest Resources

Advisor

Mindy Crandall

Second Committee Member

Adam Daigneault

Third Committee Member

Tora Johnson

Additional Committee Members

Marla O'Byrne

Abstract

Natural ecosystems provide numerous benefits that contribute to humans and the economy, including market goods such as timber and forest products, as well as benefits that are not directly measured in the marketplace, such as wildlife habitat provision and recreational provision. These benefits are collectively known as ecosystem services. Natural ecosystems are under significant pressure to be converted to other uses from factors such as shifts in ownership, land use change, fragmentation and climate change. To counter these effects, and to protect ecosystem services, public and private entities have worked to place land in conservation; however, conservation is often controversial due to a number of factors, including a loss of property tax income, and real or perceived loss of access to the land. Concerns about the value of conserved land can put stakeholders at odds. Economic valuation of ecosystem services is in demand and contributes to land use and policy decision-making. The objective of this study was to assess the economic value, in real 2017 dollars, of the ecosystem goods and services provided by conserved lands in the Downeast Maine region. Benefit transfer was used to value the following nonmarket ecosystem services: recreation, science and education, water provision, water purification and wildlife habitat. Market-based economic methods were applied to measure the contribution of timber, wild blueberries, and carbon sequestration on conserved lands in the study area. This study mapped and valued ecosystem services on conservation lands in Downeast Maine by applying established replicable methodology that will have practical applications for land managers and policy makers, in order to better understand the use and value that conserved lands contribute to the economy of the region. Study results showed that conservation land in the study region provided $463M in ecosystem service benefits in 2017, with an average of $653/acre/year. An outreach and communication plan for sharing this study with a wide range of stakeholders is provided to maximize operationalization of these results.

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