The consequences of misrepresenting feedbacks in coupled human and environmental models

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College of Business


Feedbacks between the ecosystem and the economy are important to consider when measuring impacts from a disturbance but are often omitted from general equilibrium bioeconomic models. These models usually focus on how humans respond to ecological change, but do not consider that in adapting to changed conditions, humans can further affect the ecosystem. We present a framework that couples a regional computable general equilibrium model with an Ecopath with Ecosim food web model with bidirectional feedbacks between the two systems. Our bioeconomic model uniquely represents a comprehensive mapping of the entire regional economy, including recreational and commercial fishing, harvest quotas, and fish biomass in the economic system. We simulate the bioeconomic impacts of a potential Asian carp invasion of Lake Erie's food web and regional economy with and without bidirectional feedbacks between the economy and the ecosystem. When feedbacks are omitted there are large ecological variations in the projected biomass levels of many target species, with differences in biomass of up to 80 percentage points. Results demonstrate the need to reflect bidirectional feedbacks between the economy and the ecosystem; omission of these feedbacks in this case may appear to be economically trivial yet have large ecological consequences.

Publication Title

Ecological Economics