Friday, July 24, 2009

Bioeconomics of Invasive Species - A Reference for Stakeholders

July 19th (Bioeconomics_review), 2009 {Book provided to me without charge by UOP}
Invasive species issues have captured my attention for more than 15 years. I still remember wondering about the science behind the claim that Lythrum, purple loosestrife, was invasive; I still recall the confusion as to what exactly what an invasive species was. In a broader sense I have spent my time in invasive species problems trying to connect the various disciplines of current knowledge to each other. I wonder how cost is measured, and what is risk; how definitions are reached and who is responsible for developing them; where are the models that coordinate problem of scale both in time and space. Bridging the chasm between business opportunities and the costs of preserving or protecting the commonly held environmental infrastructure, as well as sorting through the semantic clutter of market preferences and public values, has been almost a fool’s errand at times.

Now a new book, ‘Bioeconomics of Invasive Species Integrating Ecology, Economics, Policy, and Management’, edited by Reuben P. Keller, David M. Lodge, Mark A. Lewis and Jason F. Shogren, has been released by Oxford University Press. Aimed at professional managers and policy makers, as well as researchers in the many related fields of invasive species, the book is invaluable for anyone involved in the on going debates and conversations. Contributors, numbering over 20, to the collection of academic papers include: Reuben P. Keller, a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Notre Dame; David M. Lodge, Director of Center for Aquatic Conservation and Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Notre Dame; Mark A. Lewis, Canada Research Chair in Mathematical Biology in the Department of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences at the University of Alberta; and, Jason F. Shogren, Stroock Professor of Natural Resource Conservation and Management in the Department of Economics and Finance at the University of Wyoming.

The book provides an in depth look at ecological and economic modeling theory and practice that can serve as a reference for the fields of risk assessment, early detection and rapid response, and control and management of invasive species. A convenient definition from the website, Bioeconomics: Mansour Mohammadian , lays out the scope of the book: “Bioeconomics is the discipline originating from the synthesis of biology and economics. It is an attempt to bridge, through the concept of holism and interdisciplinary methodology, the empirical culture of biology and the literary culture of economics and thus finish with what C.P. Snow has called " the two cultures. The paradigm shift is really an endeavour to make the invisible visible: in the case of bioeconomics the aim is to make visible all the weaknesses of the socioeconomic activity based on the neoclassical theory and the competitive capitalist ideology.” (© 2009 Mansour Mohammadian. All Rights Reserved. )

I have stood in the middle of more than I can count stakeholder arguments that are not about invasive species but rather ecology versus economy. The property rights conversation collides with the tragedy of the commons more often than not; the larger philosophic implications are hidden by the moment of the topic. Peter A. Corning, at the Institute for the Study of Complex Systems argues “… that an economy is at heart a "survival enterprise," the basic purpose of which is "earning a living" (whatever may be our perceptions -- and the exceptions) and that both "competition" and "co-operation" represent subsidiary, contingent "survival strategies." From this perspective, bioeconomic evolution may be characterized as a consequential change in a society's (or a species') mode of adaptation -- ie., in the means of production of the requisites for biological survival and reproduction. It entails the differential selection of alternative adaptive modalities (instrumentalities of needs satisfaction). (Peter A. Corning, Ph.D. Institute for the Study of Complex Systems Copyright © 2007 ISCS. All rights reserved.) In a nutshell, or, as the authors put it, in a clamshell, Bioeconomics of Invasive Species Integrating Ecology, Economics, Policy, and Management makes “...better informed outcomes possible.”

Organized into 13 chapters the book moves from descriptions of current fields of knowledge and perspectives of invasion biology to discussions of economic and ecologic integration. From there the authors investigate trait-based risk assessments and habitat niche modeling providing details in one resource and reference for the many lines of research currently underway today. Bioeconomics continues with in depth explorations of invasive species propagule pressure and dispersal models. Make no mistake; this is not an introductory work. I had to reconnect with distant memories of avoided classes featuring differential equations and statistics, but the mental exercise was worth it, and the authors give detailed explanations of each step towards their mathematical models.

In the middle of Bioeconomics of Invasive Species I found a classic, useful presentation about fuzzy definitions, semantic vagaries and linguistic and scientific uncertainty which are central to my presentations and to my work bringing diverse and opposing constituencies together. To say the least I am excited that the authors included an entire chapter about the role and implications of uncertainty in a world that wants science to rule “ex cathedra” and never ever recant a position. Further more, Bioeconomics of Invasive Species explains in both clear economic terminology why replacement cost valuation offers erroneous answers when used to account for invasive species costs. The authors offer a descriptive metaphor for why replacement costs do not give correct answers: “Metaphorically speaking, measuring economic value by multiplying visible price times quantity would be like measuring biological phenotype by using only visible molecules and structure coded by the genetic materials.” (Bioeconomics 2009 p. 156) Understanding the insider’s problem with existing statements of invasive species costs is laid out in clear prose complete with easy to follow graphics and charts. Policies surrounding invasive species will inevitably need to consider that replacement cost and market value as currently used can lead to both understatements and overstatements of the actual or true invasive species’ costs.

Chapter 9 brings all the differing strands together presenting a goal “…to design management and policy that accounts for invader population dynamics, control and eradication measure, cost benefit analysis, and methods for optimal decision making.” (Bioeconomics 2009 p. 180) A detailed elucidation of integrated decision making modeling is capped with the observation that “[s]trong human preferences for the present period coupled to a constant discount rate explain how reduced control of invasive species may emerge as a rational decision from a bioeconomic perspective.” The authors note the intergenerational challenge to economists and ecologists of valuing the complex needs of the environment going forward. “If we wish to preserve ecosystem for future generations through rational economic behavior, we must necessarily consider new economic incentives or revised methods for valuing ecosystems that cab be used to achieve this goal.” (Bioeconomics 2009 p. 201)

Daniel Simberloff writes that Bioeconomics of Invasive Species “…is a remarkable and profound synthesis [of] successes and failures in managing invasions [and] is a must-read for invasion biologists.” I would extend that to all those who are interested in or concerned about the impacts of invasive species and the considerations to be used in setting regulatory and response policies. This is a must-have reference tool for anyone actively working in invasive species fields and a guide to future research needs to help build better tools for decisions makers and ecosystem managers.

I hope to begin a series on this web log devoted to each of the chapters, and to produce a talk and presentation grounded in this important interface between ecology and economics.

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