A Telecoupling Model to Account for Spatial Subsidies of Ecosystem Services Provided by Transboundary Migratory Species in North America

Many migratory species provide benefits to humans, which are called ecosystem services. An example of an ecosystem service provided by a migratory species is the consumption of insect pests by bats, which minimizes crop damage and agricultural losses. Another example is bird watching and hunting of pintail ducks, which provides people with recreational opportunities. Migratory species spend parts of the year across a geographic range, which often spans political boundaries. Migratory species might provide more benefits to people in certain regions than in others. Additionally, migratory species might receive greater benefits from habitats in particular areas within their range than from others. This could cause a mismatch between the areas where a species provides the benefits and the areas from which it receives support. This mismatch is called a spatial subsidy. Simply put, areas with habitat that provide the greatest benefit to migratory species are subsidizing areas where people receive most of the species' benefits. This can lead to an inequality - between people in areas that subsidize the species versus people in areas that receive the benefits - and to difficulties for wildlife management and habitat protection. This project will examine the spatial subsidies of an exemplary migratory species: Northern Pintail ducks (Anas acuta). Pintails are an important species for bird watching, sports, and subsistence (food) hunting. Previous studies indicate that breeding habitat in Canada and in the northern continental United States subsidize bird watching and hunting of pintails in California and elsewhere. This suggests that continued pintail hunting and recreational activities are dependent on the conservation of the species' breeding habitats. 

This research will develop a model to calculate spatial subsidies in the coupled natural-human systems of the migratory species: Northern Pintails. Researchers will measure how modeled values of spatial subsidies may influence decision-making related to migratory species in coupled systems in North America. This model will integrate four components that feed into one another: (1) a Habitat Distribution sub-model; (2) a Habitat Dependence sub-model; (3) an Ecosystem Services sub-model, which (a) valuates ecosystem services, (b) assesses spatial subsidies, and (c) provides decision-makers with modeled scenarios of impacts on services and spatial subsidies to identify how they might alter land-use and conservation actions in response, which is modeled in (4), the Drivers of Change sub-model. Two drivers of change are considered: land-use change, and change in the societal demand for their services. Finally, this project will also survey agency and NGO decision-makers to determine the degree to which they might use spatial subsidies information in resource management decisions, and conduct a policy analysis of how the spatial subsidies concept might support the objectives of international agreements on migratory species.

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