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Opportunity cost constitutes a substantial component of the costs of ecological restoration projects undertaken in agricultural landscapes. Private benefits generated by restored environmental assets are also important in determining the success of restoration projects. In this study, we compare the implications of using different assumptions about private benefits and opportunity cost for the optimal spatial pattern of ecological restoration of a cleared agricultural landscape in north-central Victoria, Australia. We employ a spatially explicit bio-economic model that optimizes ecological restoration through revegetation of a cleared landscape. We compare implications of using different assumptions about opportunity cost: (a) fixed marginal opportunity costs based on property value, and (b) variable marginal opportunity costs that take into account land value and private benefits generated by environmental assets on the property. Using variable marginal opportunity costs that account for private benefits captured by the landowners gives a better biodiversity outcome than using fixed marginal opportunity cost subject to the same budget constraints. Spatial patterns of ecological restoration of these scenarios differ substantially, with ecological restoration pattern shifting towards smaller properties (lifestyle landowners) in the variable-marginal-value scenario. Our results show that in order to avoid providing misleading recommendations to environmental managers about priorities for ecological restoration on private lands, it is important to take into account amenity values to land owners of native vegetation and variable opportunity costs.


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