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Forecasting Bioeconomic Impacts of Aquatic Invasive Species in the Great Lakes

Issue

lodge sampling
Dr. David Lodge, the project's Principal Investigator, collects a water sample of the Chicago River to test for the presence of DNA from the Asian Carp, an invasive species threatening the Great Lakes.

Invasive species are one of five key NOAA-identified stressors of native biodiversity and ecosystem function in the Laurentian Great Lakes, where at least 184 nonindigenous species are established. Invasive species whose original site of establishment in North America was the Great Lakes cause great damage to the Great Lakes and at least $200 million annually to the whole U.S. In the context of on-going management and policy discussions, it is therefore critical to forecast species invasions and their costs, and to predict the effectiveness and costs of potential management responses to these invasions. This will guide more cost effective investments in prevention, early detection and rapid response (EDRR) to new invasions, slow-the-spread, and control efforts for species that are already well established in the Great Lakes or connected basins.

Management Policy Issues

Important public and private decisions are made every day based on economic forecasts. Unfortunately, despite the importance of environmental goods and services to society, ecological forecasts are rarely made and even more rarely considered in economic forecasts and decision making. Partly, this is because ecologists were for a long time unable to make accurate forecasts, and because past forecasts were not shaped by the needs of decision-makers.

Without forecasts of the arrival and bioeconomic impact of nonindigenous species, natural resource management cannot cost effectively respond to current invasions or prevent future invasions. In this project, investigators are combining scientific, economic, risk analysis, and management expertise to increase capabilities for forecasting both ecological and economic impact of current and future species invasions, quantify major uncertainties and ways to reduce uncertainty, and identify actions to improve cost effective management of invasive species in the Great Lakes.

Approach

This project is integrating ecology and economics at the landscape scale to provide forecasts of the impact of invasive species on Great Lakes ecosystem goods and services. Guided by collaboration with management agencies and regional leaders, the project will forecast a range of scenarios to inform management choices about cost effective prevention, early detection and rapid response (EDRR), slow-the-spread, and control strategies for invasive species.

The project approach will use statistical and computational models based on species; and food web modeling to develop quantitative scenarios of ecological impacts. To forecast regional economic impact, the project will link the food web models to a Great Lakes regional economic model to account for the feedbacks between ecological and economic systems, and quantitatively value ecosystem goods and services affected by invasive species. Finally, in collaboration with management partners throughout the project, investigators will use the linked ecological and economic models to evaluate alternative management strategies with holistic cost-benefit analyses.

Expected Outcomes

The outcome of this project, by integrating ecology and economics at the landscape scale, will be communication of forecasts in terms of introduction pathways which are the most appropriate targets for cost effective management, especially where preventing new invasions is the goal. Alternative management or policy choices will be presented in environmental as well as dollar units, which are critical to inform decisions that must always be made in the context of limited budgets. Focusing on all five Great Lakes, the project will produce and make freely available a richer and more finely resolved set of GIS layers and ecological classifications than are currently available; these will be useful for many other researchers, agencies, NGOs, and policy makers for applications to many other issues. The project bioeconomic forecasts and uncertainty analyses will pay large economic dividends in avoided damages to the Great Lakes environment and economy.

Research Partners

University of Notre Dame, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, University of Toledo, The Nature Conservancy, Resources for the Future, University of Georgia, University of Wyoming

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