Small natural features (SNFs), landscape elements that influence species persistence and ecological functioning on a much larger scale than one would expect from their size, can also offer a greater rate of return on conservation investment compared to that of larger natural features or more broad-based conservation. However, their size and perceived lack of significance also makes them more vulnerable to threats and destruction. We examine the management of SNFs and conservation of the associated ecosystem services they generate from an economics perspective. Using the economic concept of market failure, we identify three key themes that explain prevailing threats to SNFs and characterize impediments to and opportunities for SNF management: (1) the degree to which benefits derived from the feature spillover, beyond the feature itself (spatially and temporally); (2) the availability and quality of information about the feature and those who most directly influence its management; and (3) the existence and enforcement of property rights and legal standing of the feature. We argue that the efficacy of alternative SNF management approaches is highly case dependent and relies on four key components: (1) the specific ecosystem services of interest; (2) the amount of redundancy of the SNF on the landscape and the level of connectivity required by the SNF in order to provide ecosystem services; (3) the particular market failures that need correcting and their scope and extent; and (4) the magnitude and distribution of management costs.
Bauer, Dana Marie; Bell, Kathleen P.; Nelson, Erik J.; and Calhoun, Aram J.K., "Managing small natural features: A synthesis of economic issues and emergent opportunities" (2017). Economics Faculty Publications. 16.