Spatial Scale and Ecosystem Services

This topic area is a multi-faceted research initiative that includes a number of analysts from around ASU and affiliates at other universities. Professor Joshua Abbott of ASU’s School of Sustainability and Professor H. Allen Klaiber, a former CEESP Post-Doctoral Fellow, currently Assistant Professor at Ohio State University, have developed a new methodology for investigating how the use of spatial dimensions of large data sets can be exploited to take advantage of econometric methods developed for panel data sets. These methods allow analysts to consider the role of modeling assumptions in evaluating economic relationships where outcomes arise in ways that vary in both time series and cross sectional dimensions of a data set.

Forthcoming in the Review of Economics and Statistics, their work embraces the complex multidimensional nature of the services provided by many amenities—services that may capitalize at a variety of distinct spatial scales. They then develop a methodology that exploits data variation within and across these scales to reliably untangle the value of these services and demonstrate how some currently employed techniques may offer a misleading or partial picture of these values. In their case the environmental services are related to open space amenities. They find that open space within subdivisions capitalizes in a fairly even fashion within neighborhoods in a way that is not closely tied to walkable access and that failure to carefully address scale in the analysis can result in drastic under-valuation of open space. In later work (published in Ecological Economics) they extend their technique to consider tradeoffs between private lot size and public open space within neighborhoods—uncovering relationships that shed light on what homeowners value most about public open space.

The technique can be extended to a number of applications and has prompted another effort by Klaiber and Smith to investigate whether the same logic could be used to detect the tradeoffs people make to mitigate summer night time temperatures that are higher in arid urban environments due to urban heat islands. This work was recently presented at the AERE 2011 annual meetings in Seattle, and complements past research Smith undertook with Sharon Harlan, Associate Professor of Sociology, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, ASU, and Eric Moore, former CEESP Undergraduate Research Fellow and currently first year graduate student at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

Both of these efforts highlight the importance of heat mitigation to urban households in the Phoenix metropolitan area. They contribute to a larger and continuing CEESP effort to develop an economic model of households’ locational choices and the resulting patterns of land use within the Sun Corridor. To learn more of other papers in this area see Klaiber-Smith ASSA 2011 and Abbott-Klaiber Ecological Economics.

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