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January 17, 2012  |  e-newsletter
Udall Center-NNI Research in Focus
2012 | No. 1 
a series highlighting our projects and programs 
Ecosystem Services and Public Policy



The Udall Center's research on ecosystem services is directed by LAURA LOPEZ-HOFFMAN
, assistant research professor of environmental policy at the Udall Center and assistant professor in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment.


Lopez-Hoffman and her team study the linkages between the environment and human society. In particular, they use the concept of ecosystem services to look at the connections between ecosystems and species -- including the services they provide, such as pollination, pest control, or recreational value -- and human well-being.


The focus of much of the team's research is on the shared ecosystems and ecosystem services of the U.S.-Mexico transboundary region.


When neighboring countries, such as the United States and Mexico, share ecosystems, they share ecosystem services. But, as is often the case, one neighbor may receive more of the ecosystem services while the other neighbor bears more burden to support the services (such as protecting a species' wintering habitat or summer nesting areas).


In addition, since many ecosystem services are received "for free," their value often is taken for granted until the ecosystem is degraded and the services decline or disappear. Managing ecosystems and ecosystem services that cross national borders, though obviously challenging, is only possible through an objective blending of knowledge about the biology, economics, politics, and other aspects of the situation to contribute to informed decision-making.


Bottom Line

The purpose of the Udall Center's work on ecosystem services, led by Laura Lopez-Hoffman and her research team, is to help decision-makers and institutions to understand more clearly the value of shared ecosystems and ecosystem services and, as a result, to develop creative and equitable ways, including appropriate incentives and regulations, to protect and sustain these ecosystems and their contributions to humans.


Laura Lopez-Hoffman, Ph.D.
assistant research professor of environmental policy, Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy
assistant professor, School of Natural Resources and the Environment | (520) 626-9868 | Lopez-Hoffman Lab

Laura Lopez-Hoffman is primarily interested in the ecology and policy of managing transboundary systems.


Her current work focuses on the surface waters, aquifers, species, ecosystems, and ecosystem services shared by the United States and Mexico. She is principal editor of the book, Conservation of Shared Environments: Learning from the United States and Mexico, published recently by the University of Arizona Press.


In 2011, Lopez-Hoffman was awarded a Woodrow Wilson Foundation Career Enhancement Fellowship, an award that comes with a year's release time to focus on research. She recently was named to the external advisory board of SeSynC, the new NSF-funded  socio-environmental synthesis center.


Her research includes these projects: 


Transboundary ecosystem services of migratory bats: Modeling spatial mismatches and subsidies. Supported by a National Science Foundation Research Initiation Grant, this research aims to understand how the ecosystem services provided by migratory bats in one location might be supported by habitat in different locations and how the economic benefits are distributed across space and time. (more)


Animal migration and spatial subsidies: Establishing a framework for conservation markets. With a team based at the USGS Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis, this research will measure the amount of subsidy -- the value of the ecosystem services a species provides in one area versus the cost to support the species and its habitat -- and to create a process, a payment system, whereby persons receiving the benefits of ecosystem services might provide incentives to persons in habitat areas needing protection but receiving few benefits. (more)


Enhancing transborder ecosystem services through active management: The Cienega de Santa Clara. Undertaken with UA geosciences professor Karl Flessa and colleagues, this project is supported by a grant from the UA Water Sustainability Program (WSP), Institute of the Environment (IE), and Renewable Energy Network (UAREN). (more)


Recent publications by Lopez-Hoffman and colleagues about ecosystem services and public policy are listed below. For reprint requests (if you are not able to obtain copies via the DOI links below), please contact Laura Lopez-Hoffman at



Article in Ambio
When ecosystem services crash: Preparing for big, fast, patchy climate change

by D.D. Breshears, L. Lopez-Hoffman, and L.J. Graumlich.
2011 | Ambio | 40(3): 256-63

The authors discuss ways that stakeholders reliant on ecosystem services might respond if such services were to suddenly disappear or diminish due to catastrophic and large-scale ecosystem changes brought about by climatic changes.



more (doi:10.1007/s13280-010-0106-4)


Article in Ecological Economics
Accounting for the ecosystem services of migratory species: Quantifying migration support and spatial subsidies

by D.J. Semmens, J.E. Diffendorfer, L. Lopez-Hoffman, and C.D. Shapiro
2011 | Ecological Economics | 70(12): 2236-242

Using three migratory species (salmon, bats, and a hummingbird) as examples, the authors estimate the support (i.e., through habitat) that certain locations provide to these species, which in turn provide ecosystem services in other locations, and relatedly, the value the species-supporting locations provide to the benefits-receiving locations.

more (doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2011.07.002) 



Article in Rangelands
Beef and beyond: Paying for ecosystem services on Western US rangelands

by J.H. Goldstein, C.K. Presnall, L. Lopez-Hoffman, G.P. Nabhan, R.L. Knight, G.B.Ruyle, and T.P. Toombs
2011 | Rangelands | 33(5): 4-12

The authors discuss "payments for ecosystem services," or PES, and how this might help with the stewardship of rangelands, how such payments might be determined and distributed, and what the overall strengths and drawbacks of PES might be. 



more (doi:10.2111/1551-501X-33.5.4



Other Publications

Can the Deepwater Horizon trust take account of ecosystem services and fund restoration?
by C.K. Presnall, L. Lopez-Hoffman, and M. Miller
2010 | Environmental Law Reporter | 40(11): 29-31
more (pdf)

Ecosystem services across borders: A framework for transboundary conservation
by L. Lopez-Hoffman, R.G. Varady, K.W. Flessa, and P. Balvanera
2010 | Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment | 8(2): 84-91
more (doi:10.1890/070216)

Saving nature under the big tent of ecosystem services: A response to Adams and Redford

by M. Skroch and L. López-Hoffman
2010 | Conservation Biology | 24(1): 325-27.
more (doi:10.1111/j.1523-1739.2009.01416.x)

Transboundary Ecosystem Services: A New Vision for Managing the Shared Environment of the United States and Mexico

by L. Lopez-Hoffman
2010 | 
Environmental Policy Working Paper (No. 2) | Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy
more (pdf)



photo credits: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (butterflies, ducks); USDA/ARS (rangelands); Chrysantha Gakopoulos (Laura Lopez-Hoffman portrait, Udall Center building)



You Can Support the Udall Center and the Native Nations Institute


As many of you consider making tax-deductible contributions, we invite your support for the research, education, and public service endeavors of the Udall Center and the Native Nations Institute.

Donations may be made through the University of Arizona Foundation online giving site, or you can contact Stephen Cornell, Udall Center director, at, or Robert Varady, Udall Center deputy director, at, or at 520 626-4393.

For an overview of what we do, see our 2011 Year in Review


Udall Center  

Established in 1987, the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy sponsors policy-relevant, interdisciplinary research and forums that link scholarship and education with decision-making. The Center specializes in issues concerning: (1) environmental policy, primarily in the Southwest and U.S.-Mexico border region; (2) immigration policy of the United States; and (3) Indigenous nations policy.


Stephen Cornell, Director

(520) 626-4393  


Robert G. Varady, Deputy Director
(520) 626-4393  



Native Nations Institute  

The Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy (NNI), founded in 2001 by the Morris K. Udall Foundation (now Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation) and the University of Arizona and housed at the Udall Center, serves as a self-determination, governance, and development resource for Indigenous nations in the United States, Canada, and elsewhere.


Joan Timeche, Executive Director
(520) 626-0664

Miriam Jorgensen, Research Director 

(520) 626-0664  



Robert Merideth, Editor in Chief
(520) 626-4393
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