Ecosystem Service Benefits from Public and Private Conservation Lands


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Research Objective: To quantify and compare ecosystem services (ES) capacity for Publicly Protected Areas (PPAs) and private conservation easements. Method: The study area was state and federal PPAs and private conservation easements in NC and VA. We developed and used existing ES capacity models to quantify ES capacity using GIS. Focal ES were surface water regulation, groundwater protection, water quality regulation, erosion control, recreational fishing, carbon storage, and biodiversity support. National Conservation Easement Database was used to map private conservation easements with environmental systems, recreation and education, open forest, and open farm purposes with a gap status of 1, 2, or unknown. USGS National Inventory of Protected Areas (PAD-US) was used to map State and Federal PPAs with a gap status 1 or 2. All ES capacities were standardized on a scale of 0-1 for comparison. Results: Biodiversity support was significantly greater in federal PPAs, especially throughout VA. Surface water regulation was the only ES where federal and state PPA capacity was significantly greater than private conservation easements. Ecosystem service capacity for private conservation easements was equal or greater to federal and state PPAs for all services except surface water regulation. Private land conservation protects ES and may have positive regional impacts where PPAs are not present. Although smaller, private easements can protect ES in more diffuse areas throughout the region. Existing ES capacity can be used to identify conservation areas with potential to enhance ES protection. Riparian filtration, erosion control, carbon storage, and surface water regulation capacity are the most practical services to incentivize ES protection on private lands.



Conservation easements, National protected area systems, Ecosystem services, Land use mapping