University of Minnesota Researchers Optimize Ecological and Economic Benefits of Conservation

In *All, Agricultural Economy, Agricultural Systems by AgIsAmerica

Conservation and natural resource management have benefits that reach further than previously thought. “There has been an expanded attention on the diverse benefits that nature provides people. It’s called ecosystem services and is a way to quantify and include these benefits in policy decisions,” said Laura Dee, an assistant professor in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology and lead researcher for this study.

Dee, along with other researchers at the University of Minnesota, conducted a study seeking to find a quantifiable solution to conserving parts of nature that provide the most benefits to people.

Dee’s findings support increased protection of nature and species beyond what is considered economically critical. The reason for this is simpler than one would expect: nature is complicated, and the environment is constantly changing. As Dee puts it, “Think of it this way: if you own a valuable house, and insurance for the house is cheap, it’s a no brainer to buy that insurance when the risk of damages is high. The framework we developed balances the currents costs of protecting species with the future risk of losing ecosystem services. In this way, we can determine the optimal number of species to protect.”

The study’s findings are relevant to conservation efforts already underway in Minnesota under the Prairie Conservation Plan, and the potential national benefits of the study have earned it the 2018 Innovations in Sustainability Science Award from the Ecology Society of America.

For more information on Laura Dee’s and the University of Minnesota’s study, click here.

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