Animal Migration and Spatial Subsidies: Establishing a Framework for Conservation Markets

Science Center Objects

Migratory species may provide more ecosystem goods and services to humans in certain parts of their range than others. These areas may or may not coincide with the locations of habitat on which the species is most dependent for its continued population viability. This situation can present significant policy challenges, as locations that most support a given species may be in effect subsidizing...

Migratory species may provide more ecosystem goods and services to humans in certain parts of their range than others. These areas may or may not coincide with the locations of habitat on which the species is most dependent for its continued population viability. This situation can present significant policy challenges, as locations that most support a given species may be in effect subsidizing the provision of services in other locations, often in different political jurisdictions. The ability to quantify these spatial subsidies could be used to develop economic incentives that internalize the costs and benefits of protecting migratory species, enhancing cross-jurisdictional cooperative management. Targeted payments for ecosystem services (PES) could provide economic incentives for conservation in areas where none presently exist, serving as a foundation for the cooperative cross-jurisdictional management of migratory species.

The proposed research will overcome the two primary obstacles to calculating spatial subsidies: estimating the proportional dependence of migratory populations on different habitats within their migratory range; and estimating the value humans derive from these populations within all these different habitats. The PI team has developed a framework for estimating spatial subsidies and conceptualized a multi-model approach to address this issue in the migratory Mexican free-tailed bat. We propose to expand this research by investigating additional species, the monarch butterfly and northern pintail duck, for which economic and population data are available, but requiring synthesis. Through a series of workshops bringing together economists, species experts, and modelers, spatially distributed population models and economic valuation methods will be established or refined for each species and generalized to the extent possible, with the goal of developing a transferrable framework that can be applied to a wide variety of species. In addition, we will work with management and policy experts to develop a proposal for implementing our results in conjunction with the established Western Hemisphere Migratory Species Initiative.


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Bagstad, K.J., D.J. Semmens, J.E. Diffendorfer, B.J. Mattsson, J. Dubovsky, W.E. Thogmartin, R. Wiederholt, et al. “Ecosystem Service Flows from a Migratory Species: Spatial Subsidies of the Northern Pintail.” Ambio 48, no. 1 (2019): 61–73.

Diffendorfer, J.D., Loomis, J., Reis, L., Oberhauser, K., López-Hoffman, L., Semmens, D., Butterfield, B., Bagstad, K., Semmens, B., Goldstein, J., Wiederholt, R., Mattsson, B., & Thogmartin, W. (2013). National valuation of monarch butterflies suggests untapped potential for incentive-based conservation strategies. Conservation Letters. 00 (2013) 1-10. doi: 10.1111/conl.12065

Lopez-Hoffman, L., Semmens, D.J., and Diffendorfer, J.E. (2013). How do migratory species add ecosystem service value to wilderness? Calculating the spatial subsidies provided by protected areas. International Journal of Wilderness, 1, 14-19.

López-Hoffman, L., Chester, C.C., Semmens, D.J., Thogmartin, W.E., Rodriguez McGoffin, M.S., Merideth, R., Diffendorfer, J.E. 2017a. Ecosystem services from transborder migratory species: Implications for conservation governance. Annu. Rev. Env. and Res. 42, 509-539.

López-Hoffman, L., J. Diffendorfer, R. Wiederholt, K. J. Bagstad, W. E. Thogmartin, G. McCracken, R. L. Medellin, A. Russell, and D. Semmens. 2017. Operationalizing the telecoupling framework for migratory species using the spatial subsidies approach to examine ecosystem services provided by Mexican free-tailed bats. Ecology and Society 22(4):23.

López-Hoffman, L., Wiederholt, R., Sansone, C., Bagstad, K.J., Cryan, P., Diffendorfer, J.E., Goldstein, J., LaSharr, K., Loomis, J., McCracken, G., Medellin, R.A., Russell, A., and Semmens, D. (2014). Market Forces and Technological Substitutes Cause Fluctuations in the Value of Bat Pest-Control Services for Cotton. PLoS ONE 9(2): e87912. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0087912

Mattsson, B.J., J.A. Dubovsky, W.E. Thogmartin, K.J. Bagstad, J.H. Goldstein, J.B. Loomis, J.E. Diffendorfer, D.J. Semmens, R. Wiederholt, and L. López-Hoffman, 2018. Recreation economics to inform migratory species conservation: Case study of the northern pintail. Journal of Environmental Management, 206:971-979.

Oberhauser, K., Wiederholt, R., Diffendorfer, J.E., Semmens, D., Ries, L., Thogmartin, W.E., Lopez-Hoffman, L., and Semmens, B., 2017. A trans-national monarch butterfly population model and implications for regional conservation priorities. Ecological Entomology, v.42, p. 51-60. 10.1111/een.12351

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Ruscena, W., Lopez-Hoffman, L., Cline, J., Medellin, R., Cryan, P., Russell, A., McCracken, G., Diffendorfer, J., and Semmens, D.J. (2013). Moving across the border: modeling migratory bat populations. Ecosphere, 4(9). doi: 10.1890/ES13-00023.1

Semmens, D.J., Diffendorfer, J.E., Lopez-Hoffman, L, and Shapiro, C.D. (2011). Accounting for the ecosystem services of migratory species: Quantifying migration support and spatial subsidies. Ecological Economics, 70(12), 2236-2242. doi: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2011.07.002

Semmens, D.J., J.E. Diffendorfer, K.J. Bagstad, R. Wiederholt, K. Oberhauser, L. Ries, B.X. Semmens, J. Goldstein, J. Loomis, W.E. Thogmartin, B.J. Mattsson, and L. López-Hoffman, 2018. Quantifying ecosystem service flows at multiple scales across the range of a long-distance migratory species. Ecosystem Services, ISSN 2212-0416,

Wiederholt, R., Svancara, C., McCracken, G., Thogmartin, W., Diffendorfer, J., Bagstad, K., Cryan, P., Russell, A., Semmens, D., Medellin, R., & Lopez-Hoffman, L. (2014). Optimizing conservation strategies for Mexican free-tailed bats: A population viability and ecosystem services approach. Biodiversity and Conservation: 1-20. doi: 10.1007/s10531-014-0790-7.

Goldstein, J.H., Thogmartin, W.E., Bagstad,K.J., Dubovsky, J.A., Mattsson, B.J., Semmens, D.J., López-Hoffman, L., and Diffendorfer, J.E. (2014). Replacement Cost Valuation of Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) Subsistence Harvest in Arctic and Sub-Arctic North America. Human Dimensions of Wildlife, 19(4). doi: 10.1080/10871209.2014.917345

Wiederholt, R., Bagstad, K., McCracken, G., Diffendorfer, J.E., Loomis, J., Semmens, D., Russell, A., Sansone, C., La Sharr, K., Cryan P., Reynoso, C., Medellin, R.A., and, Lopez-Hoffman, L., 2017. Improving spatio-temporal benefit transfers for pest control by generalist predators in cotton in the southwestern U.S. International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystem Services & Management, v.12, n.2, p.27-39

Picture of a monarch butterfly resting on a red flower

Principal Investigators:

Darius J Semmens (USGS - Central Earth Surface Processes Team)

James E Diffendorfer (USGS - Central Earth Surface Processes Team)

Laura Lopez-Hoffman (University of Arizona)


Brady Mattsson (Western Ecological Research Center)

Brice Semmens (Scripps Institute of Oceanography)

Kenneth J Bagstad (Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center)

Paul Cryan (Fort Collins Science Center)

Gary McCracken (University of Tennessee, Knoxville)

Ruscena Wiederholt (Patuxent Wildlife Research Center)

Wayne E Thogmartin (Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center)

James Dubovsky (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Josh Goldstein (Colorado State University)

Karen Oberhauser (University of Minnesota)

Leslie Ries (University of Maryland)

Amy Russell (Grand Valley State University)

Rodrigo Medellin (National Autonomous University of Mexico)