You are here: Home » Regional research » Paper: Balancing water quality and economic returns in a Lake Erie watershed

Paper: Balancing water quality and economic returns in a Lake Erie watershed

We recently had a paper accepted in Ecological Economics, led by Hui Xu, a recent PhD student advised by Dan Brown in SEAS.  The research assessed the trade-offs in the abatement of phosphorous runoff into Lake Erie that could be gained with different land uses that have less P runoff than fertilized cropland, versus the economic returns that would be lost or gained through the changes in land use.  This type of analysis is a growing part of sustainability science, in which economic and ecological analyses are combined in a single study.  The information gained in this research allows society to consider the costs of environmental degradation such as eutrophication and harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie and weigh those costs against the economic returns from current agricultural choices and practices as well as the economic returns from realistic, potential changes in land use and land management.  In this study we found that conservation practices alone, on agricultural land, is not sufficient to achieve policy goals in P abatement in runoff into Lake Erie, but that a combination of agricultural conservation practices together with some land use change (to forests and switchgrass) could achieve policy targets in P abatement while also maximizing economic returns.   The collaborative team on this research project included investigators with expertise in geography and land use, ecosystem science and biogeochemistry, watershed hydrogeochemical modeling, and environmental economics. The citation for the paper is below; click on the journal and page information for a copy of the paper.

Xu, H., D. G. Brown, M. R. Moore, and W. S. Currie. 2018. Optimizing spatial land management to balance water quality and economic returns in a Lake Erie watershed. Ecological Economics 145:104-114..