Economics allows us to quantify the benefits nature provides people and make clear the interdependence of people and nature. In doing so, it can help us discover and create market-based solutions to conservation problems. There are myriad ways we can deploy economics: to create markets, to improve markets, to influence markets and to understand the limits of markets.

By combining economics, conservation science, and the new data streams and communication pathways enabled by technology, we can develop key insights for changing “business as usual” and develop incentives and structures that support large-scale change.

Just as the Conservancy helped create a market for private land protection through conservation easements and the acquisition of other property interests, the organization is now poised to leverage market-based approaches to solve more complex conservation problems. 

Science in Action

| Economics

MarketLab

How do we put economics and finance to work for conservation?

Freshwater | Terrestrial | Technology | Economics | Science

Dynamic Conservation

In an era of rapid global change, how can conservationists provide habitat where and when nature needs it most?

2019 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Planning | Economics | Science | Publications & Reports

Evidence Synthesis as the Basis for Decision Analysis: A Method of Selecting the Best Agricultural Practices for Multiple Ecosystem Services

Gorm E. Shackelford, Rodd Kelsey, William J. Sutherland, Christina M. Kennedy, Stephen A. Wood, Sasha Gennet, Daniel S. Karp, Claire Kremen, Nathaniel E. Seavy, Julie A. Jedlicka, Kelly Gravuer, Sara M. Kross, Deborah A. Bossio, Andrés Muñoz-Sáez, Deirdre G. LaHue, Kelly Garbach, Lawrence D. Ford, Mark Felice, Mark D. Reynolds, Devii R. Rao, Kathleen Boomer, Gretchen LeBuhn, Lynn V. Dicks

Agricultural management practices impacts not only on crops and livestock, but also soil health, water quality, wildlife, and ecosystem services. There is abundant, but disconnected, scientific evidence for the impacts of different practice. But this evidence is often not used in decision making by farmers or…


2019 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Planning | Economics | Science | Publications & Reports

Aligning evidence generation and use across health, development, and environment

Heather Tallis, Katharine Kreis, Lydia Olander, Claudia Ringler, David Ameyaw, Mark E Borsuk, Diana Fletschner, Edward Game,, Daniel O Gilligan, Marc Jeuland, Gina Kennedy, Yuta J Masuda, Sumi Mehta, Nicholas Miller, Megan Parker, Carmel Pollino, Julie Rajaratnam, David Wilkie, Wei Zhang, Selena Ahmed, Oluyede C Ajayi, Harold Alderman, George Arhonditsis, Ines Azevedo, Ruchi Badola, Rob Bailis, Patricia Balvanera, Emily Barbour, Mark Bardini, David N Barton, Jill Baumgartner, Tim G Benton, Emily Bobrow, Deborah Bossio, Ann Bostrom, Ademola Braimoh, Eduardo Brondizio, Joe Brown, Benjamin P Bryant, Ryan SD Calder, Becky Chaplin-Kramer, Alison Cullen, Nicole DeMello, Katherine L Dickinson, Kristie L Ebi, Heather E Eves, Jessica Fanzo, Paul J Ferraro, Brendan Fisher, Edward A Frongillo, Gillian Galford, Dennis Garrity, Lydiah Gatere, Andrew P Grieshop, Nicola J Grigg, Craig Groves, Mary Kay Gugerty, Michael Hamm, Xiaoyue Hou, Cindy Huang, Marc Imhoff, Darby Jack, Andrew D Jones, Rodd Kelsey, Monica Kothari, Ritesh Kumar, Carl Lachat, Ashley Larsen, Mark Lawrence, Fabrice DeClerck, Phillip S Levin, Edward Mabaya, Jacqueline MacDonald Gibson, Robert I McDonald, Georgina Mace, Ricardo Maertens, Dorothy I Mangale, Robin Martino, Sara Mason, Lyla Mehta, Ruth Meinzen-Dick, Barbara Merz, Siwa Msangi, Grant Murray, Kris A Murray, Celeste E Naude, Nathaniel K Newlands, Ephraim Nkonya, Amber Peterman, Tricia Petruney, Hugh Possingham, Jyotsna Puri, Roseline Remans, Lisa Remlinger, Taylor H Ricketts, Bedilu Reta, Brian E Robinson, Dilys Roe, Joshua Rosenthal, Guofeng Shen, Drew Shindell, Ben Stewart-Koster, Terry Sunderland, William J Sutherland, Josh Tewksbury, Heather Wasser, Stephanie Wear, Chris Webb, Dale Whittington, Marit Wilkerson, Heidi Wittmer, Benjamin DK Wood, Stephen Wood,, Joyce Wu, Gautam Yadama and Stephanie Zobrist

Although environmental conservation, human health, and sustainable development challenges are interconnected, approaches to these challenges and the evidence used remain disconnected. Creating integrated solutions across these sectors will require better alignment of the methods used to assess the problems and quantifying success. In this review,…


2019 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Economics | Publications & Reports

MarketLab: Where Economics and Finance Meet Conservation

Sarah Heard

We have an opportunity to apply the principles of economics and finance to demonstrate the value of conservation and create systems that incentivize the protection of nature at scale. In a changing climate, natural landscapes are extremely valuable for the benefits they provide to both…


2019 | Freshwater | Economics | Publications & Reports

Economic Tools to Achieve Groundwater Sustainability for Nature: Two Experimental Case Studies from California

Sandi Matsumoto, Melissa M. Rohde, Sarah Heard

Groundwater is a critical water supply around the world and is increasingly under threat from pumping that exceeds natural replenishment. Successful implementation of California's Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) depends local agencies working with stakeholders to develop plans and implement projects that reduce groundwater use,…


2019 | Terrestrial | Planning | Technology | Economics | Science | Publications & Reports

Power of Place: Land Conservation and Clean Energy Pathways for California

Grace C. Wu, Emily Leslie, Douglas Allen, Douglas Allen, Oluwafemi Sawyerr, D. Richard Cameron, Erica Brand, Brian Cohen, Marcela Ochoa, Arne Olson

California has ambitious climate and energy policies that call for the development of significant amounts of new zero-carbon energy by midcentury. The Power of Place study looks at multiple pathways to meet California's clean energy demand in alignment with decarbonization goals while limiting the impacts…


2019 | Freshwater | Economics | Publications & Reports

SGMA's First Groundwater Market: An Early Case Study from Fox Canyon

Sarah Heard, E.J. Remson, Matthew Fienup, Siobhan King

In 2014, California passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) which regulates groundwater at scale for the first time, requiring the state’s largest source of stored water to be managed for long-term resilience. SGMA delegates the responsibility of achieving sustainable groundwater management by 2040 to…


2018 | Terrestrial | Economics | Science | Publications & Reports

Toward a Carbon Neutral California: Economic and Climate Benefits of Land Use Interventions

David C. Marvin, Dick Cameron, Erik Nelson, Andrew Plantinga, Justin Breck, Gokce Sencan, Michelle Passero

Ecosystems can increase carbon storage under alternative management techniques and land use patterns. But the magnitude, timing, and spatial heterogeneity is uncertain. Assessing the potential and cost of land management and conservation activities to reduce emissions or increase carbon sequestration is needed to help the…


2018 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Planning | Economics | Science | Publications & Reports

Groundwater sustainability in the San Joaquin Valley: Multiple benefits if agricultural lands are retired and restored strategically

Rodd Kelsey, Abby Hart, H. Scott Butterfield, Dan Vink

Restoring habitat in retired farmland could reduce water demand and provide ecosystem services for farmers and local communities. In some areas of California, as a result of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), it is likely that large amounts of agricultural land will need to…


2018 | Freshwater | Economics | Publications & Reports

California’s First Farmer-Led Groundwater Market

Sarah Heard, E.J. Remson, Siobhan King, Sandi Matsumoto

The Conservancy has a vested interest in preserving farms in Ventura County because they buffer important river and wetland habitat from nearby urban lands. In western Ventura County, over 70% of groundwater use is agricultural. Due to requirements of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), this use will…


2017 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Technology | Economics | Science | Publications & Reports

Dynamic conservation for migratory species

Mark D. Reynolds, Brian L. Sullivan, Eric Hallstein, Sandra Matsumoto, Steve Kelling, Matthew Merrifield, Daniel Fink, Alison Johnston, Wesley M. Hochachka, Nicholas E. Bruns, Matthew E. Reiter, Sam Veloz, Catherine Hickey, Nathan Elliott, Leslie Martin, John W. Fitzpatrick, Paul Spraycar, Gregory H. Golet, Christopher McColl, Scott A. Morrison

What if instead of buying habitat, conservationists could rent it when and where nature needs it most? The Conservancy is using predictive models of shorebird movements, data from the citizen science program eBird, and NASA satellite wetland habitat data to create a habitat marketplace of…


2017 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Economics | Publications & Reports

Market-Based Mechanisms For Securing Environmental Water In California

Sarah Heard, Siobhan King, Eric Hallstein

California’s water supply is becoming increasingly unreliable. During dry times, consumptive use often outstrips supplies. As a result, people and nature suffer. This imbalance of supply and demand will likely grow worse if future demand for agricultural and urban water increases alongside a warming climate.…


2016 | Marine | Economics | Science | Publications & Reports

Market and design solutions to the short-term economic impacts of marine reserves

Daniel Ovando, Dawn Dougherty, Jono R. Wilson

No-take marine reserves are a management intervention that can provide long-term fishery benefits. But, impacts of reserve implementation can negatively affect fishermen profits in the short term. This study examines how to overcome the losses in profit associated with implementing reserves. The authors found that creative…


2015 | Terrestrial | Planning | Economics | Science | Publications & Reports

Integrating Land Conservation and Renewable Energy Goals in California: A Study of Costs and Impacts Using the Optimal Renewable Energy Build-Out (ORB) Model

The Nature Conservancy: Erica Brand, Laura Crane, Dick Cameron, Energy and Environmental Economics: Grace C. Wu, Nick Schlag

Integrating ecological data into long-term energy planning is critical to meet both California’s long term energy and conservation goals. This report assesses the potential trade-offs associated with renewable energy build-out by evaluating the land and water use implications and cost of a range of potential…


2013 | Marine | Economics | Publications & Reports

Fort Bragg Central Coast Risk Pool Annual Summary Report 2012

Kate Labrum, Dwayne Oberhoff

In 2011, the west coast groundfish fishery transitioned into a catch share fishery, or Individual Fishing Quota management system. Under this type of management system, the annual total allowable catch is divided into shares, or quota, and allocated to individual fishermen. This report describes a…