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The impact of social context on conservation auctions: social capital, leadership and crowding out Open Access


Other title
environmental policy
crowding out
beneficial management practices
conservation auction
competitive tender
reverse auction
social capital
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Kits, Gerda Johanna
Supervisor and department
Adamowicz, Wiktor (Department of Resource Economics & Environmental Sociology)
Examining committee member and department
Nostbakken, Linda (Department of Economics)
Dridi, Chokri (Department of Resource Economics & Environmental Sociology)
Boxall, Peter (Department of Resource Economics & Environmental Sociology)
Belcher, Ken (School of Environment and Sustainability, University of Saskatchewan)
Davidson, Debra (Department of Resource Economics & Environmental Sociology)
Department of Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Conservation auctions are a policy tool that can be used to cost-effectively achieve environmental goals, by providing incentives for landowners to adopt environmentally friendly beneficial management practices (BMPs) on their land. Using a competitive bidding process, the party interested in encouraging BMP adoption selects and enters into contract with landowners, who receive monetary compensation in return for their adoption of the new practices. Previous research on conservation auctions has focused mainly on various design choices which can impact auction performance. This study takes a different approach, examining the influence of the social context in which auctions take place. Real auctions may be implemented in communities with varying levels of social capital and leadership. Since these factors have been shown to influence individual behaviour in a variety of settings, we hypothesize that they may also influence bidder behaviour within a conservation auction and, in turn, the cost-effectiveness and environmental outcomes of the auction. Using simulated auctions in an experimental setting, we sort participants into experimental treatments based on social capital and leadership characteristics. We find that both social capital and leadership do indeed have multi-dimensional, context-specific effects on bidder behaviour and auction outcomes. In addition, real auctions may take place in communities where some landowners have already adopted BMPs, driven by pro-social or pro-environmental “internal” motivations. Previous research has found that such motivations may be crowded out by the introduction of “external” motivations such as fines or regulation. We show, using an experimental approach, that conservation auctions also appear to cause crowding out of voluntary pro-environmental behaviour. This research contributes to the academic literature by linking theories of social capital and leadership to the literature on conservation auctions, and extending the literature on crowding out to this specific policy mechanism. In addition, it provides an innovative way of investigating the influence of social factors within an experimental setting. There are also important policy implications, as our findings draw attention to the importance of considering social context when designing and implementing conservation auctions.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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