Conserving species in a working landscape: Land use with biological and economic objectives

Stephen Polasky, Erik Nelson, Eric Lonsdorf, Paul Fackler, Anthony Starfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

207 Scopus citations


Habitat loss and fragmentation are major threats to biodiversity. Establishing formal protected areas is one means of conserving habitat, but socio-economic and political constraints limit the amount of land in such status. Addressing conservation issues on lands outside of formal protected areas is also necessary. In this paper we develop a spatially explicit model for analyzing the consequences of alternative land-use patterns on the persistence of various species and on market-oriented economic returns. The biological model uses habitat preferences, habitat area requirements, and dispersal ability for each species to predict the probability of persistence of that species given a land-use pattern. The economic model uses characteristics of the land unit and location to predict, the value of commodity production given a land-use pattern. We use the combined biological and economic model to search for efficient land-use patterns in which the conservation outcome cannot be improved without lowering the value of commodity production. We illustrate our methods with an example that includes three alternative land uses, managed forestry, agriculture, and biological reserve (protected area), for a modeled landscape whose physical, biological, and economic characteristics are based on conditions found in the Willamette Basin in Oregon (USA). We find that a large fraction of conservation objectives can be achieved at little cost to the economic bottom line with thoughtful land-use planning. The degree of conflict between conservation and economic returns appears much less using our joint biological and economic modeling approach than using a reserve-site selection approach, which assumes that species survive only inside of reserves and economic activity occurs only outside of reserves.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1387-1401
Number of pages15
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2005


  • Biological conservation and economic production
  • Conserving biodiversity
  • Economic-ecological model
  • Efficiency frontier
  • Integrated
  • Land use
  • Working landscape

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