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Final Activity Report Summary - ECOLECONMOD (Ecological-economic modelling for the assessment of the efficiency of conservation policies)

The objectives of the project were to build capacity within the ecological-economic modelling group at UFZ in the fields of:
(i) optimisation and operations research; and
(ii) cost assessment for biodiversity conservation.

Training was carried out through research and workshops. To acquire knowledge in the field of optimisation model was developed to optimise forestry management activities, in particular the intensity and timing of harvesting. For this, an ecological model describing forest dynamics was imbedded into a dynamic optimisation framework to deliver optimal harvesting schedules. In another dynamic optimisation problem, the optimal time to start conservation actions was analysed when species conservation incurs different types of economic costs that affect the optimal time in opposite ways. In a third project an agent-based model (a technique also belonging to the field of operations research) was developed to investigate the evolution of cooperative behaviour in forest landscapes where red deer impose damages to foresters as well as benefits to hunters. This was done together with the University of York. Lastly, optimal management strategies to slow down the spread of invasive species were analysed.

With regard to cost assessment a framework was developed for classifying the various types of cost types that can arise in biodiversity conservation. These costs types include primary costs of, e.g. monitoring and relocation of species, and secondary costs, which are caused by delays and changes in land use projects due to the presence of a protected species.

A method was developed to estimate these secondary costs. The framework was applied to the case of the common hamster (Cricetus cricetus) in several parts of Germany. Next to research the fellows gave two workshops to members of the Department of Ecological Modelling and the Department of Economics at the UFZ. One workshop was on natural resource modelling including optimisation issues in the fields of forest economics, fishery economics, and economics of species extinction. The other workshop was on methods to quantitatively assess the total economic cost of biodiversity conservation measures. The fellows also participated in training activities offered by the hosts, including a one-week training course on ecological-economic modelling (with lectures on basic ecology, basic economics, conservation ecology and economics, integrated modelling) and a two-days course on agent based modelling at the Max-Planck Institute for mathematics in the sciences in Leipzig.

An international workshop 'ghost in the machine' on integration of ecological-economic modelling with policy making was jointly organised. Professor Stephen Polasky (University of Minnesota), one of the world's leading conservation economists, visited the group from 23 - 24 September 2008. He very much endorsed the research programme of the ecological-economic modelling group at the UFZ. Several articles were produced jointly by hosts and fellows.

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