Compensating Southern Landowners for Ecosystem Services: An Interview Series and Case Study

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Abstract Thomas, Katie. Master of Natural Resources, Economics and Management. Compensating Southern Landowners for Ecosystem Services: An Interview Series and Case Study Ecosystem services are benefits people experience from the use of natural land including water purification, timber, food production, and outdoor recreation. These benefits are frequently not included in the economic value of undeveloped land. This makes them seem less important to decision makers when compared to economic development, but people depend on ecosystem services for survival and well-being and these services are difficult to replace without significant expense once lost. As the global population continues to grow, tradeoffs between natural and manufactured services must be considered to best address the needs of society. One approach to protecting the supply of ecosystem services is payment to landowners for the ecosystem services the land provides in its natural state. However, navigation of market options can be complicated and some landowners sell their land for development simply because they do not have enough information concerning other, more environmentally centered options. This study sought to examine and document the relationship between property attributes and available opportunities for participation in carbon banking, wetland mitigation banking, conservation easements, and recreation using results from an interview series in order to assist landowners in their decision making process. Additionally, a case study of a large property near Wilmington, North Carolina was used to illustrate the complexities of participation in ecosystem service markets. Results showed rural location, large size, and private ownership are the most favored property characteristics, but objectives of the markets are varied enough to create opportunity for many kinds of properties to utilize at least one of the aforementioned markets.



ecosystem service markets; ecosystem services; private landowners