Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions
Interest in using ecosystem services to integrate considerations of people and the environment continues to grow in federal agencies. One method that can help agencies incorporate ecosystem services into decision making is the use of ecosystem services conceptual models, which link changes in biophysical systems caused by an intervention to human well-being outcomes. Evidence-based ecosystem services conceptual models can provide efficiency and consistency in application, transitioning ecosystem services from an interesting concept to an actionable approach for natural resource management. Despite the potential usefulness of these models, there are few examples available to build from and little published detail on how to implement them. This report provides an example of an ecosystem services conceptual model for solar energy development on lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management. The Bureau of Land Management wants to facilitate solar energy development on suitable land in the southwestern United States while minimizing negative impacts on social, cultural, and ecological systems. With agency staff, researchers at Duke's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Solutions developed a model that captures the potential outcomes of the installation and operation of solar energy facilities on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. An accompanying evidence library provides a summary of the currently available evidence for each relationship in the model and an assessment of the strength of that evidence. The ecosystem services conceptual models could improve and help to streamline environmental assessments and help the Bureau of Land Management achieve its socio-economic strategy.