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Best Practices for Integrating Ecosystem Services into Federal Decision Making

Federal agencies take many actions that influence ecosystem conditions and change the provision of ecosystem services valued by the public. To date, most decisions affecting ecosystems have relied on ecological assessments with little or no consideration of the value of ecosystem services. Best practice for ecosystem services assessments is to apply quantitative measures and methods that express both an ecosystem’s capacity to provide valued services and, through those services, social benefit (value). Although preference evaluation methods are well established, their implementation can be infeasible because of time or resource constraints, particularly when new data need to be collected. In such cases, the minimum standard recommended for an ecosystem services assessment is to use measures that go beyond narrative description and that are carefully constructed to reflect the ecosystem’s capacity to provide benefits to society but that stop short of a formal assessment of people’s preferences. These measures of ecosystem services are benefit-relevant indicators (BRIs). Their use ensures that ecosystem services assessments measure outcomes that are demonstrably relevant to human welfare, rather than biophysical measures that might not be relevant to human welfare. If ecosystem service values or BRIs are not used in some manner, ecosystem services are not being assessed, and no direct insights can be drawn about effects on social welfare. This minimum best practice is broadly achievable across agencies and decision contexts with current capacity and resources.

Authors: Lydia Olander, Robert J. Johnston, Heather Tallis, Jimmy Kagan, Lynn Maguire, Steve Polasky, Dean Urban, James Boyd, Lisa Wainger, and Margaret Palmer

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Ecosystem Services

Reports

Assessing the Economic Contribution of Marine and Coastal Ecosystem Services in the Sargasso Sea

This report, which was revised April 2015, provides a variety of measures of the Sargasso Sea’s economic value and impact, especially net and gross revenues associated with ecosystem services supported by the sea. It captures just a small portion of these services and does not reflect their complete and total net value. Yet analysis of data on even this small portion suggests that the economic importance of the Sargasso Sea is significant. Economic expenditures and revenues directly or potentially linked to that sea range from tens to hundreds of million of dollars a year.

Authors: L. Pendleton, F. Krowicki, P. Strosser, and J. Hallett-Murdoch, Murdoch Marine

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Oceans & Coasts

Marine Ecosystem Services

Ecosystem Services

Marine

Environmental Economics

Reports

Get the Science Right When Paying for Nature's Services

Payments for Ecosystem Services mechanisms leverage economic and social incentives to shape how people influence natural processes and achieve conservation and sustainability goals. Beneficiaries of nature's goods and services pay owners or stewards of ecosystems that produce those services, with payments contingent on service provision. Integrating scientific knowledge and methods into Payments for Ecosystem Services is critical. Yet many projects are based on weak scientific foundations, and effectiveness is rarely evaluated with the rigor necessary for scaling up and understanding the importance of these approaches as policy instruments and conservation tools. Part of the problem is the lack of simple, yet rigorous, scientific principles and guidelines to accommodate Payments for Ecosystem Services design and guide research and analyses that foster evaluations of effectiveness. The Nicholas Institute's Lydia Olander, along with other scientists and practitioners from government, nongovernment, academic, and finance institutions, propose a set of such guidelines and principles in a new Science article.

Author(s): S. Naeem, J. C. IngramA. VargaT. AgardyP. BartenG. BennettE. BloomgardenL. L. BremerP. BurkillM. CattauC. ChingM. ColbyD. C. CookR. CostanzaF. DeClerckC. FreundT. GartnerR. Goldman-BennerJ. GundersonD. JarrettA. P. KinzigA. KissA. KoontzP. KumarJ. R. LaskyM. MasozeraD. MeyersF. MilanoL. Naughton-TrevesE. NicholsL. OlanderP. OlmstedE. PergeC. PerringsS. PolaskyJ. PotentC. PragerF. QuétierK. RedfordK. SatersonG. ThoumiM. T. VargasS. VickermanW. WeisserD. WilkieS. Wunder

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Ecosystem Services

Environmental Economics

National

Journal Articles

Federal Resource Management and Ecosystem Services Guidebook

Many of the benefits nature provides to people are poorly accounted for in management decisions because resource managers haven’t had access to materials and tools that support this undertaking. This online-only guidebook developed by the National Ecosystem Services Partnership, federal agencies, and other partners addresses this need. It allows resource managers to better communicate with people about the positive and negative effects of natural resource management decisions. It also helps them explicitly consider how to balance outcomes that matter to people and to avoid unintended consequences.

Editor: Lydia Olander

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Ecosystem Services

Reports

Mainstreaming Ecosystem Services into Decision Making

In a guest editorial for the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, Ecosystem Services Program director Lydia Olander and her coauthor identify several efforts to bring consistency to methods for incorporating ecosystem services concepts into environmental decision making, including the National Ecosystem Services Partnership’s Federal Resource Management and Ecosystem Services Guidebook.

Author(s): Lydia Olander and Lorraine Maltby

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Ecosystem Services

Journal Articles

Working Together: A call for Inclusive Conservation

An age-old conflict around a seemingly simple question has resurfaced: why do we conserve nature? Contention around this issue has come and gone many times, but in the past several years we believe that it has reappeared as an increasingly acrimonious debate between, in essence, those who argue that nature should be protected for its own sake and those who argue that we must also save nature to help ourselves. Heather Tallis, Jane Lubchenco and 238 co-signatories (including the Nicholas Institute's Lydia Olander) petition for an end to the infighting that is stalling progress in protecting the planet.

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Ecosystem Services

National

Journal Articles

The Most Important Current Research Questions in Urban Ecosystem Services

The urbanized world depends on ecosystem services--both inside and outside of city boundaries. Although investing in their provision will often be more cost-effective than response actions, such as treatment, restoration, and disaster response, ecosystem services do not play a prominent role in the formulation of urban policies, plans, and laws. In fact, many cities are experiencing declines of the ecosystems that sustain them. Halting and reversing these declines requires identification of pressing research needs in the area of urban ecosystem services. This article brings together the collective insights of lawyers, urban planners, ecologists, and economists on the most important research questions that should shape the future of scholarship in this area.

Author(s): James Salzman, Craig Anthony (Tony) Arnold, Robert Garcia, Keith H. Hirokawa, Kay Jowers, Jeffrey LeJava, and Lydia P. Olander

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Ecosystem Services

Land

National

Journal Articles

Optimizing the Scale of Markets for Water Quality Trading

Allowing polluters to buy, sell or trade water-quality credits could significantly reduce pollution in river basins and estuaries faster and at a lower cost than requiring facilities to meet compliance costs on their own, a new Duke University led study finds. The scale and type of the trading programs, though critical, may matter less than just getting them started. The analysis in the journal Water Resources Research shows that water-quality trading of any kind can significantly lower the costs of achieving Clean Water Act goals.

Author(s): Martin Doyle, Lauren Patterson, Yanyou Chen, Kurt Schnier, and Andrew Yates

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Science

Water

Ecosystem Services

Environmental Economics

National

Journal Articles

Mangrove Ecosystem Services Valuation: State of the Literature

A growing body of literature provides estimates of ecosystem services values derived from mangroves. If this literature is to be useful in decision making, it must have a solid foundation of value estimates. This paper identifies gaps in data and knowledge regarding mangrove ecosystem services valuations and recommends ways that future research could advance understanding of mangrove ecology, ecosystem services valuation, and conservation. 

Authors: Tibor Vegh, Megan Jungwiwattanaporn, Linwood Pendleton, and Brian Murray

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Oceans & Coasts

Marine Ecosystem Services

Ecosystem Services

Marine

Environmental Economics

Working Papers

Synthesis and Review: Advancing Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Quantification

Reducing emissions of agricultural greenhouse gases (GHGs), such as methane and nitrous oxide, and sequestering carbon in the soil or in living biomass can help reduce the impact of agriculture on climate change while imporving productivity. A new article in a special focus issue of Environmental Research Letters synthesizes the current findings on the state of the capacity for agricultural GHG quantification. It concludes that strategic investment in quantification can lead to significant global improvement in agricultural GHG estimation in the near term.

Author(s): Lydia P. Olander, Eva Wollenberg, Francesco N. Tubiello, and Martin Herold

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Climate & Energy

Agriculture

Ecosystem Services

T-AGG

T-AGG International

Environmental Economics

National

Journal Articles

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