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Virginia Matzek awarded NSF grant to investigate ecological restoration in Australia

Friday, Aug. 15, 2014

ESS Assistant Professor Virginia Matzek has won a highly competitive NSF grant to travel to Australia and research how people value ecological restoration projects. Ecological restoration, in addition to its potential benefits to biodiversity, is increasingly called upon to provide benefits to humans, such as halting soil erosion, improving water quality, or removing atmospheric CO2. Globally, Australia is a leader in providing incentives for restoration for the purpose of enhancing or preserving these valuable ecosystem services.

However, there are many approaches to restoration, and they are not all equal in providing ecosystem services. Moreover, in different regions, people care more deeply about different kinds of benefits—perhaps soil erosion here, perhaps recreational access there. What if the services that scientists and land managers are trying to maximize in a restoration project are not the ones that people value most highly?

Matzek’s project, a new collaboration with scientists at the Australian Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, seeks to understand if there are mismatches between the services expected from restoration projects and what various groups of stakeholders would prefer. With Marit Kragt (University of Western Australia) and Kerrie Wilson (University of Queensland), she will survey scientists, land managers, policymakers, and the general public in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.