Sustaining Environmental Capital Initiative (SECI)

Science Center Objects

The mission of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Sustaining Environmental Capital Initiative (SECI) is to develop and enhance science and research on ecosystem services in support of improving natural resource management. This effort is in response to the fourth recommendation of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) report: "Federal agencies with responsibilities relating to ecosystems and their services [are] tasked with improving their capabilities to develop valuations for the ecosystem services affected by their decision-making and factoring the results into analyses that inform their major planning and management decisions."

Serving as the scientific backbone to the Federal Government’s ecosystem services priorities, the SECI builds upon the U.S. Geological Survey's existing programs and expertise related to water, fisheries, modeling, and economic valuation. The SECI consists of an interdisciplinary team of economists, social scientists, biologists, ecologists, modelers, programmers, and water quality experts. Success of the SEC Initiative is dependent upon interagency partner engagement to guide development, content, and functional application of products in decision-making. The initial science effort builds on the USGS’s expertise and National Programs related to water, fisheries, modeling, ecosystem services, and economic valuation.


Three pilot studies have been launched that leverage existing science efforts, interagency partnerships, and decision making needs. The pilots will be used to demonstrate methods for assess ecosystem services that can be applied to other environments. While the pilots are water-based, the SECI is organized so it can grow to include demonstration studies, data, and tools relevant to other ecosystems in future iterations. 

Specific Objectives

A sunset in western Loveland, Colorado.

A sunset in western Loveland, Colorado. Chris Huber, USGS.

  • Develop and demonstrate state of the art ecosystem services assessment methods in pilot studies through integration with existing efforts;
  • Establish methods and data protocols that are transferable to diverse ecosystems and can be applied nationally;
  • Develop and launch the “SECI Dashboard,” a Web-based resource serving data, partnering agency examples, and pilot study information to users;
  • Enhance the “SECI Dashboard’s” ability to model and asses trends in ecosystem services both regionally and nationally;
  • Create an informatics architecture that uses EcoINFORMA to manage data and serve ecosystem services-related tools and information for decision-makers.

Pilot Study Integration

The SECI has developed a series of pilot studies designed to showcase multiple methods available to planners and scientists for assessing ecosystem services. Each pilot study focuses on a different region, and not only takes a unique approach to measuring ecological functions, but also implements different methods for estimating the value of ecosystem services.

The Chesapeake Bay Watershed pilot will estimate the ecologic production and economic value of watershed floodplain ecosystem services. The pilot will use floodplain mapping in small watersheds where extensive 

field data and floodplain landform information exists. Ecosystem services of interest include: water quality, flood protection, wildlife habitat, and recreation. 

The Delaware River Basin pilot will evaluate biofiltration, nutrient flux, storage, and retention associated with freshwater mussel populations within the Delaware River. This information will be incorporated into a stated preference nonmarket valuation study in an effort to quantify the economic value of ecosystem services provided by freshwater mussels.

The Pacific Northwest National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program pilot study will employ a series of structural equation and regression models to predict biological indicators of stream health using information on water and habitat quality. Results from the NAWQA stream health assessment will be leveraged in a revealed preference hedonic property premium model to estimate the economic value of water quality throughout the region.