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E-IPER Dissertation Defense - Nicole Buckley Biggs "Engaging Agricultural Landowners in Climate and Conservation: California Case Studies"

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Event Details:

In-Person: Y2E2 299

Virtual: Zoom Webinar


Human land-use activities have driven widescale environmental collapse, including a global biodiversity crisis and climate change. Given the immense footprint of croplands and rangelands, these landscapes have become the target of new solutions supporting carbon sequestration, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and habitat conservation. Such government and private-sector interventions are predicated on voluntary behavior change by farmers and ranchers, yet little is understood about how these landowners perceive the relevant benefits and risks.

To address this research gap, my dissertation uses a social-behavioral approach to policy analysis aimed at identifying the factors shaping land use decisions. My research highlights the importance of distinguishing between rangelands and croplands—and between the types of landowners who manage them—to understand the feasibility of upscaling solutions. I draw on case studies across California, from a Sierra Nevada ranching community to the croplands of the San Joaquin Valley. In each chapter, I investigate the feasibility of a different climate change solution: 1) managed livestock grazing; 2) soil carbon markets; 3) rangeland conservation; and 4) renewable energy production. Using in-depth interviews along with land cover, real estate, and policy-relevant data, I identify the challenges of using managed grazing to sequester soil carbon, the opportunities and risks around payments for ecosystem services, and the role of landscape values and water availability in land use decisions. 

The empirical findings and recommendations summarized in my dissertation contribute to improved design of environmental policies and corporate sustainability programs targeting farmers and ranchers. 


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