Cost-benefit analysis of ecological networks assessed through spatial analysis of ecosystem services.

Published online
20 Jun 2012
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Newton, A. C. & Hodder, K. & Cantarello, E. & Perrella, L. & Birch, J. C. & Robins, J. & Douglas, S. & Moody, C. & Cordingley, J.
Contact email(s)

Publication language
UK & England


The development of ecological networks could enhance the ability of species to disperse across fragmented landscapes and could mitigate against the negative impacts of climate change. The development of such networks will require widespread ecological restoration at the landscape scale, which is likely to be costly. However, little information is available regarding the cost-effectiveness of restoration approaches. We address this knowledge gap by examining the potential impact of landscape-scale habitat restoration on the value of multiple ecosystem services across the catchment of the River Frome in Dorset, England. This was achieved by mapping the market value of four ecosystem services (carbon storage, crops, livestock and timber) under three different restoration scenarios, estimating restoration costs, and calculating net benefits. The non-market value of additional services (cultural, aesthetic and recreational value) was elicited from local stakeholders using an online survey tool. Flood risk was assessed using a scoring approach. Spatial Multi-Criteria Analysis (MCA) was conducted, incorporating both market and non-market values, to evaluate the relative benefits of restoration scenarios. These were compared with impacts of restoration on biodiversity value. Multi-Criteria Analysis results consistently ranked restoration scenarios above a non-restoration comparator, reflecting the increased provision of multiple ecosystem services. Restoration scenarios also provided benefits to biodiversity, in terms of increased species richness and habitat connectivity. However, restoration costs consistently exceeded the market value of ecosystem services. Synthesis and applications. Establishment of ecological networks through ecological restoration is unlikely to deliver net economic benefits in landscapes dominated by agricultural land use. This reflects the high costs of ecological restoration in such landscapes. The cost-effectiveness of ecological networks will depend on how the benefits provided to people are valued, and on how the value of non-market benefits are weighted against the costs of reduced agricultural and timber production. Future plans for ecological restoration should incorporate local stakeholder values, to ensure that benefits to people are maximised.

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