Ecosystem services, the benefits nature provide to people, vary spatially, and mapping where they are abundant or in short supply is useful for a variety of purposes, including land-use planning, assessment of conservation and restoration priorities, identification of environmental equity issues, and communication with diverse stakeholders. Duke’s Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability, in collaboration with the Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center, is engaged in a project to map ecosystem services at the landscape level across the southeastern United States.
These maps use data from publicly available, national-scale sources to allow the analyses to be easily adapted to other areas of the United States. Analyses are designed to incorporate both the supply of ecosystem services (where natural ecosystems have the capacity to provide a certain service that could be of use to people) and the demand for those services (where people or other entities use or appreciate the service). Where possible, we use this information to identify target areas for conservation (to preserve existing ecosystem services) and restoration (to enhance the supply of ecosystem services where they are needed) at the regional scale, and provide additional information to enable users to refine the prioritization for specific areas of interest.
Mapped ecosystem services include wild pollination, recreational birding, access to open space for recreation, and water purification. These maps can be explored in a StoryMap , and downloadable datasets are available on ScienceBase . More information on the methods and supporting datasets used to create each map product, as well as guidance for using these datasets, can be found in our NESP Methods Brief series. The project team (Katie Warnell and Lydia Olander) is exploring how the map products can be integrated into ongoing state and regional-scale conservation planning efforts, such as the North Carolina Natural and Working Lands Action Plan. Some of the map products from this project are used as data sources for the Natural Capital Accounting project. The project also aims to develop use cases illustrating how this information can be used by managers and decision makers. We are interested in hearing about how you use these products in your work; please let us know if you have a use case you’d like to share!