Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Invasive Elodea Threatens Remote Ecosystem Services in Alaska: A Spatially-Explicit Bioeconomic Risk Analysis
by Schwoerer, Tobias, Ph.D., University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2017, 207; 10265151
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation links human and ecological systems research to analyze resource management decisions for elodea, Alaska’s first submerged aquatic invasive plant. The plant likely made it to Alaska through the aquarium trade. It was first discovered in urban parts of the state but is being introduced to remote water bodies by floatplanes and other pathways. Once introduced, elodea changes freshwater systems in ways that can threaten salmon and make floatplane destinations inaccessible. The analysis integrates multiple social and ecological data to estimate the potential future economic loss associated with its introduction to salmon fisheries and floatplane pilots. For estimating the effects on commercial sockeye fisheries, multiple methods of expert elicitation are used to quantify and validate expert opinion about elodea’s ecological effects on salmon. These effects are believed to most likely be negative, but can in some instances be positive. Combined with market-based economic valuation, the approach accounts for the full range of potential ecological and economic effects. For analyzing the lost trip values to floatplane pilots, the analysis uses contingent valuation to estimate recreation demand for landing spots. A spatially-explicit model consisting of seven regions simulates elodea’s spread across Alaska and its erratic population dynamics. This simulation model accounts for the change in region-specific colonization rates as elodea populations are eradicated. The most probable economic loss to commercial fisheries and recreational floatplane pilots is $97 million per year, with a 5% chance that combined losses exceed $456 million annually. The analysis describes how loss varies among stakeholders and regions, with more than half of statewide loss accruing to commercial sockeye salmon fisheries in Bristol Bay. Upfront management of all existing invasions is found to be the optimal management strategy for minimizing long-term loss. Even though the range of future economic loss is large, the certainty of long-term damage favors investments to eradicate current invasions and prevent new arrivals. The study serves as a step toward risk management aimed at protecting productive ecosystems of national and global significance.

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Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Little, Joseph M.
Commitee: Adkison, Milo D., Baek, Jungho, Hayward, Gregory D., Morton, John M.
School: University of Alaska Fairbanks
Department: Economics
School Location: United States -- Alaska
Source: DAI-A 78/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Ecology, Environmental economics, Environmental management
Keywords: Alaska, Economic valuation, Elodea spp., Expert opinion, Floatplanes, Invasive species
Publication Number: 10265151
ISBN: 9781369728637