Working Papers

When Disaster Strikes: The Impact of Tropical Cyclones and Mangrove Protection on Economic Activity in Coastal Communities.

with Paulo J. Murillo-Sandoval

Link to most recent draft

Abstract: Climate change is expected to increase the intensity and spatial extent of storms. Research suggests mangroves can serve as natural defensive structures and protect against cyclones and storm surges. We estimate the impacts of high- and low-intensity tropical cyclones on economic activity between 2014 and 2019 across communities the global tropics. We use detailed measure- ments of distance to and size of nearby mangroves to study their protective role at a global scale. We find that places struck by high-intensity (113+ knots) cyclones experience large negative shocks in the month of the storm, with important differences in recovery between mainland and island communities. Caribbean Island communities lose 6 months of economic growth following a Category 4 or 5 hurricane, raising concerns about high fatality and injury rates. Our results suggest mangroves can protect communities from tropical cyclones, with protection increasing in mangrove area and decreasing in distance to nearest mangrove. We find heterogeneous effects by income, suggesting mangroves play an important role in protecting low and low-middle in- come nations from storms. For communities struck by high-intensity cyclones there is a trade-off between mangrove proximity and near-shore hazards (e.g., low elevation).

Crush and Burn:  How the destruction of ivory fails to save elephants.

(New draft is available upon request)

Abstract: Since 1979 elephant populations have declined by half. Advocates have called for the destruction of confiscated ivory to denounce elephant poaching and the illicit trade. As a result, more than 280 tons have been destroyed between 1989 and 2017, despite concerns of unintended consequences. This paper investigates the causal effect of destroying ivory on elephant poaching rates across African and Asian countries with elephants. The main finding is that these destructions do not reduce poaching rates. In Africa ivory destructions increase poaching rates with large negative spillover effects from in-country events on the rest of the continent. Theory and evidence suggest the supply shock effect dominates and increases poaching incentives. In Asia there is no evidence that poaching rates respond to ivory destructions.

Coastal Erosion Protection on the Oregon Coast (work in-progress)

with Steven J. Dundas

Abstract: We investigate the questions of what landscape features and climate risks matter, and why, in a single housing market in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. We use parcel-level measurements derived from high-resolution remote sensing data, and develop risk and safety metrics from a probabilistic climate emulator based on total water level observations and predictions. A key advantage of our rich data is more temporally and spatially precise measurements of various landscape features and risk, which may translate to both new and improved hedonic estimates. 

Highlighted publications

No peace for the forest: Rapid, widespread land changes in the Andes-Amazon region following the Colombian civil war. 2021. Paulo J. Murillo-Sandoval, Emma Gjerdseth, Camilo Correa-Ayram, David Wrathall, Jamon Van Den Hoek, Liliana M. Dávalos, and Robert Kennedy. Global Environmental Change, 69(102283).

Abstract: Negative environmental impacts of violent conflict have been observed worldwide. Whether or not active global conflicts are declining in number remains hotly debated, the number of countries entering post-conflict periods is on the rise, and the impact of this transition on land cover changes remains poorly understood. In Colombia, though large-scale armed conflict has concluded, the post-conflict period represents an ongoing threat to forest conservation, putting at risk commitments to meet global conservation goals and even those stipulated in the peace accord. This paper aims to assess land cover change associated with the Colombian conflict in the Andes-Amazon region between 1988 and 2019. First, we use the Landsat archive to map land cover and characterize the spatial patterns of change at the regional level. Second, to empirically identify the effect of conflict on land cover change, we employ a difference-in-difference approach using local conflict events data. During conflict (1988–2011), land cover in the Andes-Amazon remained relatively stable, however during the post-conflict period (2012–2019), the conversion from forest to agriculture increased by 40%. We find that forest cover surrounding conflict events (1 km radius) decreased significantly, on average by ~ 19% during conflict, which accelerated to ~ 30% in the post-conflict period. Similarly, agriculture expansion is most substantial during the post-conflict period, but exclusively in municipalities with population below the 50th percentile. Landscape metrics show that in peripheral municipalities (<50th), agriculture occurs in clumped distributions during the conflict period. Meanwhile, during the post-conflict period, this expansion happens more quickly, with significantly greater agricultural patch sizes than during the conflict period. We conclude that a slow implementation of conservation governance, the emergence of illegal land markets, and illicit land uses (i.e., coca and illegal cattle ranching) may accelerate land cover change in the coming years.

Presentations and Seminars


Seminar, Economics Department, Portland State University (Invited). November 2023.

Applied Economics Working Group Seminar, Oregon State University. November 2023.

Heartland Environmental and Resource Economics (HERE) Workshop. Short Research Presentation. October 2023.

Association of Environmental and Resource Economists (AERE) 2023 Summer Conference. Session: Flood Impacts.

The Convening for the Pacific Northwest Framework for Atmospheric Recovery (PNW FAR), Blue Carbon Working Group (Invited).

Applied Economics Working Group Seminar (Oregon State University).


Western Economics Association International (WEAI) Conference, AERE session “Endangered species/Biodiversity”.
“State of the Dunes” Mini-Conference and Dune Management Workshop.


Applied Economics Working Group Seminar (Oregon State University).

Agricultural & Applied Economics Association (AAEA) Joint Annual Meeting, AERE-ENV track session “GHG emissions from Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use: Impact, mitigation strategies, incentives, and regulation”.