Date of Award

8-2014

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Major Professor

Paul R. Armsworth

Committee Members

Louis Gross, Daniel Simberloff, Donald Hodges

Abstract

Conservation science acknowledges that economic cost and ecological benefit information is important for effective biodiversity conservation decision making. Obtaining this information for protected areas has proven difficult, however. This dissertation explores various aspects of obtaining information on the costs and benefits of protected areas in an effort to support applied conservation. Here I present a set of studies that 1) examine the threat and cost of plant invasion on protected areas, both for cumulative invasion and 2) across species that differ in their management priority, 3) provide a method for measuring the benefit of forest conservation, and 4) describe the conservation benefit implications from multiple conservation organizations working in the same region. The first two studies show that while conservation needs and prior costs can be estimated, there is no evidence that past expenditures relate to future budget requirements. This result is the impetus for the next study, where I develop a method to estimate the conservation benefit of forest protection using satellite imagery so that conservation professionals can better assess the relationship between conservation actions and outcomes. The final study reveals that competition for limited funding affects how conservation organizations allocate their resources, resulting in variation in benefit that depends on the organizations' priority alignment. Overall, my dissertation reinforces the importance of properly accounting for costs and benefits in conservation planning and provides insight and tools to help achieve that outcome.

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