Research

Publications:

Naeem, S., Bruner, S. G., & Missirian, A. (2021). Environmental risk in an age of biotic impoverishment. Current Biology, 31(19), R1164–R1169.

Missirian, A., Frank, E. G., Gersony, J. T., Wong, J. C. Y., & Naeem, S. (2019). Biodiversity and Thermal Ecological Function: The Influence of Freshwater Algal Diversity on Local Thermal Environments. Ecology and Evolution, 9(12), 6741–7373.

Missirian, A., & Schlenker, W. (2017). Asylum applications respond to temperature fluctuations. Science, 358(6370), 1610–1614. >> Media coverage

Missirian, A., & Schlenker, W. (2017). Asylum Applications and Migration Flows. American Economic Review: Papers & Proceedings, 107(5), 436–440.

Working papers

Can Demand-Side Interventions Rebuild Global Fisheries? (with Christopher Costello, Olivier Deschênes, Michael Melnychuk, Gavin McDonald) Despite recent improvements in the status of wild-capture fisheries in large part attributable to management, a growing share (33 %) of stocks remains overexploited. Demand-side interventions have been touted as a blanket solution that would, through price signals, set the fishing pressure right. That reasoning hinges in part on a sufficient level of responsiveness embodied in the supply elasticity of fisheries. Using plausibly exogenous variation in fish prices and extensive data on the world's fisheries, we first estimate this elasticity, and find it is very low -- about a tenth of that observed in comparable sectors. Demand-side policies also assume that the resulting fishing effort will be sufficient to ensure the recovery of depleted fisheries. We quantitatively verify whether that is the case, by combining a bioeconomic model of fisheries with a model of global seafood supply and demand calibrated with our estimates. We find that no matter how drastic the intervention, demand-side policies never achieve more than marginal improvements to fisheries status compared to a counterfactual no-intervention scenario, and at enormous costs. On the other hand, supply-side policies (e.g., quotas), even imperfectly designed or implemented, result in substantial recovery. We conclude that in general, the conditions for demand-side policies to succeed are not met, but might be for some specific fisheries or should factors affecting supply elasticity such as subsidies change.

Yes, in Your Backyard: Forced Technological Adoption and Spatial Externalities. Diffusion of new technologies in competitive markets is often thought to be too slow relative to an optimal adoption trajectory due to learning-by-doing, learning-by-using, or network externalities. In this paper, in contrast, I study a phenomenon of hastened technology adoption facilitated by a negative spatial externality imposed by adopters on non-adopters. Focusing on new herbicide-tolerant seeds for soybean and cotton, I show that adoption by U.S. farmers was partly caused by wind carrying the drift-susceptible herbicide across plots. I estimate that being in the same wind corridor as an adopter increased the probability of adopting by about 29%. The externality also led to defensive adaptation: cropland was converted to crops able to withstand the herbicide, suggesting a form of protective land-use change to prevent damage. I then turn to broader consequences of the widespread adoption of the technology, including its overall effect on yields. A priori, the effect on yields is ambiguous. I find that overall, yields remained practically unchanged, despite increased crop failure. The rapid diffusion of this new technology and the consequences highlighted here call for the careful consideration of policies to address such inventions and of their accompanying side-effects.

Payment for Ecosystem Services and the Preservation of Forest Cover in Ecuador. Policies for habitat preservation are increasingly favoring contractual schemes whereby conservation actions undertaken by private individuals are voluntary but incentivized by payments. This is where their appeal lies, as opposed schemes relying on restriction of use or exclusion. It is also their weakness, but whether that's a fatal one is still an open debate. The present study analyzes such a scheme in Ecuador, and shows that not only enrolment was biased towards marginal land that was at a lower risk of deforestation anyway, but also that compliance fell short. As a result, deforestation dynamics were not altered by the program. This implies that targeting and enforcement should be a priority when considering designing a payment for ecosystem service scheme.

What drives migratory pressure at the southern EU borders? In the wake of the "migration crisis" of 2015 in the Mediterranean region, environmental factors (e.g. droughts) have re-emerged as a possible major driver of emigration. Systematically proving and quantifying their implication, however, has remained arduous, mostly for want of quality data on international migration with a global coverage of origin countries. Here I propose the use of a novel data set for the study of migration drivers that hasn't, to my knowledge, been used for that purpose. They are correlated with another measure of distress-driven migration, applications for asylum (into the European Union), and respond in the expected direction to known drivers of migration (e.g. income at origin). Finally, weather shocks seem to influence this measure of distress-driven, but the picture is somewhat less clear here, likely due to the shortness of the panel of weather and migration data at hand. [CEEP working paper]

Work in progress

Agricultural landscape complexity and pest pressure: A Less Simplistic Approach to Landscape Complexity. With Eyal G. Frank.