We studied unanticipated long-run outcomes of conservation activities that occurred in forested watersheds on O`ahu, Hawaii, in the early twentieth century. The initial general impetus for the conservation activities was to improve irrigation surface water flow for the sugar industry. Industry concentration facilitated conservation of entire ecosystems. We investigate the benefits that accrued through dynamic linkages of the hydrological cycle and groundwater aquifer system. This provides a clear example of the need to consider integrated watershed effects, industrial structure, and linkages in determining conservation policy. We incorporated remote-sensing data, expert opinion on current watershed quality, and a spatial economic and hydrological model of O`ahu’s freshwater use with reports of conservation activities from 1910–1960 to assess these benefits. We find a 2.3% annual increase in groundwater recharge levels from these activities, with a lower bound benefit–cost ratio of 7.1–18.2. This lower-bound excludes returns from such high value, yet controversial to measure, amenities as species preservation.
Ecosystems, 2014, Vol 17, Issue 4, p. 698-719
watershed conservation, Hawaii, long run conservation, integrated watershed management, ecoystem services