Article IV. Prevention is better than cure: implementing soil conservation practices may be cheaper than dredging
Estrada Carmona, Natalia
Fremier, Alexander K.
DeClerck, Fabrice A. J.
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Assessing changes in the provisioning of ecosystem services (ES) due to changes in agroecosystem management will better inform Costa Rican PES escheme. This scheme is recognizing the role of agroecosystem as ES providers, still an assessment of the provisioning of ES by implementing ideal cropping systems (combination of at least two or three soil conservation practices) rather than only spread trees is missing. One of the most critical ES provided in agroecosystems is soil retention, this ES have on-site benefits for the farmer and off-site benefits for downstream consumers such as hydropower companies. We estimated changes on soil retention ES by implementing ideal cropping systems in three of the most important basins for hydropower and agricultural production in the Upper-Middle Reventazon watershed in Costa Rica. We tested three targeting strategies, four budgets allocations and compared the avoided cost of dredging the retained soil with current dredging cost. We quantified the provision of the soil retention ES using the Integrated Valuation of Environmental Services (InVEST). We used the Tradeoffs and the Resources Investment Optimization System (RIOS) to test our three targeting strategies: (1) RIOS default optimization, (2) RIOS constrained to current land uses in conflict with soil legislation and (3) RIOS constrained to erosive crops and crops on steep slopes. The tested budget included the lowest budget allocated in the watershed for soil conservation programs in the past up to the maximum amount it will be requiered to implement ideal cropping systems across all the agricultural land. Our results indicate that targeting efforts on erosive crops or crops on steep slopes will likely provide the highest cost-effectiveness investment scenario, or in other words, the highest soil retention per dollar spent. Under this particular targeting strategy, investments in ideal cropping systems may be more cost effective than dredging sediment from the downstream reservoirs, given our modeling assumptions. Our modeling strategy, offers a conservative and simple but robust first approximation to a methodology that can be adapted and modeled iteratively to assess ES provisioning due to changes in agroecosystems management.