Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Data release for Using social-context matching to improve transfer performance for cultural ecosystem service models

December 20, 2019

Spatial planning is becoming an increasingly important component of managing natural resources in the face of growing demands upon and threats to our public lands. Efforts to model and map the goods and services derived from ecosystems provide important information to planning efforts, permitting the analysis of tradeoffs or costs and benefits associated with management alternatives. Much progress has been made in the development of spatially explicit models and tools for assessing biophysically derived ecosystem service endpoints, but the capacity to account for social values, including cultural ecosystem services, remains limited. The Social Values for Ecosystem Services (SolVES) tool was designed to help fill this gap by linking environmental data with spatial responses to social surveys to develop models of social value for a region of interest. A key limitation of this approach is the time and expense of conducting social surveys to get the required model inputs, but this limitation could be reduced if social-value models developed in one area could be transferred and applied elsewhere defensibly. We used social-survey data from six adjacent national forests in Colorado and Wyoming to explore the potential for transferring social-value models between regions, and specifically to test the hypothesis that local socioeconomic context plays a role in determining when it is appropriate to apply a model from one region to another region. Results indicate that transfer performance increases as demographic similarity increases between study and target populations. Variability is high, however, suggesting that factors beyond those tested are also important. Social context proved to be an indicator of when it was appropriate to transfer models between study and policy sites, but more research is needed to establish the most relevant parameters for describing the social context