The Institute of Social and Economic Research’s Dr. Tobias Schwoerer, Dr. Jennifer Schmidt, and Kyle Borash alongside the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Dr. Joseph Little, published a new article, “Hitchhikers on floats to Arctic freshwater: Private aviation and recreation loss from aquatic invasion”, in the latest issue of Ambio. Their economic analysis showed that the introduction of elodea to a remote floatplane destination would change the benefits pilots derive from their destinations by -$185 on average per round trip.

person dumping herbicide into Lake Hood

Alaska Department of Natural Resources staff applying herbicide in Lake Hood to clean up an elodea infestation, 2015

Elodea creates dense mats of floating plants that are a safety concern for pilots aside from lost recreation quality such as diminished sport fishing and water-based recreation opportunities.

The researchers used an innovative electronic mapping tool in a survey with Alaska’s floatplane pilots to identify statewide flight patterns and to better understand changes in pilots’ flight behavior given floatplane transmission of elodea to remote lakes. The published research discusses important policy implications. For example, the estimated change in benefits demonstrates the avoided cost associated with cleaning up existing elodea infestations and keeping cleaned up lakes free of elodea. It also shows pilots that there are economic benefits associated with keeping rudders on floats clean before take-off and therefore reducing elodea transmissions to remote landing sites.

The authors are grateful for funding from the Alaska Sustainable Salmon Fund and Alaska Sea Grant. The article, Hitchhikers on floats to Arctic freshwater: Private aviation and recreation loss from aquatic invasion, can be accessed and shared free of charge.