Integrated Assessment Modeling for Design of Riparian Buffer Systems and Incentives for Adoption

Speaker: Xiaogu Li, Penn State University

Date and Location

When (Date/Time)

February 13, 2019, 12:00 PM - 1:15 PM


157 Hosler

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Riparian buffers are zones of vegetation adjacent to streams and riverbanks. Buffers can be highly effective in capturing and filtering pollutants from surface runoff, while also providing other ecosystem services such as wildlife habitat and flood control. However, riparian buffers are costly. These high costs may hinder the adoption of buffers by farmers. For example, PA has only 80 ha (200 ac) of documented buffers as of 2015 (PA in the Balance Conference, 2016). This study addresses two key policy questions. First, does flexibility in buffer design improve the probability of adoption by farmers? Flexible buffer design enables farmers to select from a wider array of options for size, vegetation types, spatial arrangement, and the ability to gain a long-term monetary benefit from crops, products, or other uses that do not diminish the anticipated water quality benefits and potentially reduce the costs of buffer implementation. We develop a dynamic optimization land-conversion model to study the uncertainty and risks for farmers in decision-making of adoption of an environmental service contract such as riparian buffers, and the degrees of importance of the attribute(s) of the buffers in buffers adoptions. The second policy question is what is the optimal buffer contract design taking into consideration the tradeoffs between buffer adoption and ecological performance? We model the social planner’s objective as maximizing the expected net environmental benefits of riparian buffers to reach a pre-determined environmental goal. The expected net benefits depend on both the buffer adoption probabilities estimated from our first step and the environmental benefits of these buffers estimated using state-of-the-art water quality simulation modeling via the Soil Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model.

A light lunch will be provided.  We hope to see you all there!


Kate Zipp and Joel R. Landry


EEEP Seminar Coordinators