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Optimal Advanced Credit Releases in Ecosystem Service Markets

BenDor, Todd K., Guo, Tianshu, Yates, Andrew J.
Environmental management 2014 v.53 no.3 pp. 496-509
credit, ecological restoration, ecosystem services, ecosystems, issues and policy, markets, models, United States
Ecosystem service markets are popular policy tools for ecosystem protection. Advanced credit releases are an important factor affecting the supply side of ecosystem markets. Under an advanced credit release policy, regulators give ecosystem suppliers a fraction of the total ecosystem credits generated by a restoration project before it is verified that the project actually achieves the required ecological thresholds. In spite of their prominent role in ecosystem markets, there is virtually no regulatory or research literature on the proper design of advanced credit release policies. Using U.S. aquatic ecosystem markets as an example, we develop a principal–agent model of the behavior of regulators and wetland/stream mitigation bankers to determine and explore the optimal degree of advance credit release. The model highlights the tension between regulators’ desire to induce market participation, while at the same time ensuring that bankers successfully complete ecological restoration. Our findings suggest several simple guidelines for strengthening advanced credit release policy.