Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Wetlands more cost-effective in nutrient removal, but multiple payments would be of uncertain value

18.09.2013
Removing nitrogen from the environment "the natural way" by creating a wetland is a long-term, nutrient-removal solution, more cost effective than upgrading a wastewater treatment plant, but it isn't necessarily socially beneficial to offer landowners multiple payments for the environmental services that flow from such wetlands, according to a study conducted at the University of Illinois.

"In the areas we studied in Bureau County with small wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), it was much cheaper to do pollution control by installing just a few wetlands than it was to have the WWTPs do the upgrades that would be necessary to achieve the same thing," said U of I environmental economist Amy Ando.


This image shows a wetland.

Credit: University of Illinois

Bureau County was selected for the simulation because it is an area that has waterways with heavy nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, and it is a rural area of the state but with some population density and a couple of WWTPs.

"In some ways, it's a poster child for an environment where a program like this could work," Ando said. "There is enough farmland to put in some wetlands, but there are also enough people contributing to the WWTPs that are generating nutrients—so there are parties on both sides that could trade with each other."

The study analyzed the amount of land needed to reduce nitrogen pollution, data on the costs of actual wetland restorations, and other factors such as the opportunity costs to the landowner from no longer farming the new wetland area.

"Wastewater treatment plants can already remove nitrogen, but their current technology is only capable of removing them up to a point," Ando said. "If they wanted to do more nitrogen removal, they would have to make upgrades. The cost of phosphorus removal isn't high, but for nitrogen, the upgrades are pretty expensive."

Ando also explained that, depending on how environmental permit markets are set up, if an area is set aside as a wetland, the landowner could qualify for several incentive programs through pollution trading markets, even if the original purpose of the wetland conversion was only to reduce nitrogen.

"This is a big issue in the design of markets for ecosystem services," Ando said. "A wetland does a lot of things. It will filter out nutrients, but it also creates habitat for waterfowl, and it might sequester carbon. The cost of installing a wetland is large enough that in some cases no single payment might be enough to convince a farmer to do it, but if they get paid for the full value to society of all three benefits, then they might be willing to do it.

"There's an almost violent debate among scholars and environmental groups and people who are trying to get these markets into place about whether farmers should be able to stack payments. We were trying to be agnostic and just ask the question, what effects would stacking have on market outcomes?" she said.

Ando said that, under some circumstances, if multiple payments for the same action are not allowed, it can result in inefficiently low levels of conservation activity on parcels of land that generate nutrient removal and other benefits such as wildlife habitat.

However, some farmers may be willing to convert farmland to wetland on the strength of just one payment.

"Ideally we want to pay farmers to create a wetland that they would not have done anyway," Ando said. "But in some cases, they might not need the extra incentive and would have been happy to do it for the nitrogen payment alone. In our study area, we found that allowing multiple payments may or may not make society as a whole better off, depending on the details of the policy situation."

When questioned about the fairness of stacking credits, Ando said "Fair is a different question than efficient and from cost-effectiveness overall. If multiple payments for a single wetland don't increase the provision of ecosystem services relative to single payments, then it's not cost-effective. Some of that money could be used to pay a different landowner and get more services overall. So there might be a trade-off between what seems fair and just and what yields the greatest environmental benefit to society for a fixed amount of money available for payments," she said.

Water Quality Trading with Lumpy Investments, Credit Stacking, and Ancillary Benefits was published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Water Resources Association. Additional authors are Adam H. Lentz and Nicholas Brozoviæ.

The research was funded in part by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Debra Levey Larson | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.illinois.edu

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Six-legged livestock -- sustainable food production
11.05.2017 | Faculty of Science - University of Copenhagen

nachricht Elephant Herpes: Super-Shedders Endanger Young Animals
04.05.2017 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'

26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>