Marine Reserves News: Tale of Tradeoffs: Competing Values in Conservation

A Deeper Dive

Tale of Tradeoffs: Competing Values in Conservation

Cape Falcon


How do you measure the value of a conservation area? That question looks deceivingly simple because ‘value’ is defined differently by each person.

For example, consider road construction. A city may choose to widen an existing road to improve traffic flow. Improved traffic flow benefits local businesses and commuters. But, some residents may have to give up portions of their property to make room for construction. As a result, they might perceive that same construction as a negative outcome.

This example begs the question: How do you measure tradeoffs when comparing positive outcomes for one group of people versus the negative outcomes to another?

This example is analogous to competing values in conservation. Creating a new wilderness area, designating a wild and scenic river, or creating marine reserves all provide conservation benefits. However, there are tradeoffs. Assessing these natural resource tradeoffs involves complex, interdisciplinary research in the field of human dimensions.

Human dimensions research is the study of natural resource issues, and the ways people value and use the natural environment.  Such studies tackle broad questions, such as measuring the near and long term effects of a conservation policy. While ‘value’ is most often linked to economics, human dimensions studies embrace many social science disciplines. For example, value can be applied in a cultural context, such as the sense of identity people derive from a landscape they love and have used for generations.

In the case of marine reserves, closing an area to fishing has short term economic and cultural costs, countered by the potential for long term ecological gains. Read more to learn about how ODFW Marine Reserves human dimensions research is evaluating this, and other issues.

Reports from the Field

Ecological Monitoring – Being that this is an El Nino year, we are very interested to see what juvenile fish might recruit to our nearshore waters. In April, juvenile fish sampling gear was deployed at the Otter Rock and Redfish Rocks and the the first round of sampling yielded nearshore rockfishes, as well as cabezon, kelp greenling and even one Boccaccio. Orca whales visited during a recent hook and line trip -- click here to see the photos and read about what else the team has been up to.

Human Dimensions – This evening, May 12th, Tommy will be presenting human dimensions research work to the Lower Nehalem Watershed Council in Manzanita (Want to attend the talk? Click here for meeting details). In April, Dr. Tommy Swearingen gave several presentations on human dimensions research and the work being conducted for Oregon’s marine reserves to students at the University of Washington, at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology, and undergraduate students who were recently visiting the Hatfield Marine Science Center.