Assessing conservation and management actions with ecosystem services better communicates conservation value to the public
Fish and wildlife populations are under unprecedented threats from changes in land use and climate. With increasing threats comes a need for an expanded constituency that can contribute to the public support and financial capital needed for habitat conservation and management. Using an ecosystem services approach can provide a framework for a more holistic accounting of conservation benefits. Our objective here is to provide a greater understanding of the role that taking an ecosystem services approach can have in expanding the public constituency that supports the use of financial capital required to conserve and manage the nation’s natural capital. To demonstrate a methodology and the usefulness of taking an ecosystem services approach when communicating the value of conserving and managing fish and wildlife habitats, we performed an evaluation of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-owned Waterfowl Production Areas, National Wildlife Refuges, and easement lands (both wetland and grassland) in Stutsman County, North Dakota. We quantified amphibian habitat, grassland bird habitat, floral resources for pollinators, and carbon storage services under various scenarios of conservation. While we did not include all possible ecosystem services in our model, our case study shows how this process can provide a more complete picture of the collateral benefits of conservation directed primarily toward waterfowl. Using this ecosystem services approach, we documented marked losses in all services modeled if current conservation lands were developed for the production of agricultural crops. By having access to a more complete picture of benefits provided by conservation lands, decision makers can better communicate their value. By garnering greater public support through a more accurate accounting of societal benefits, conservation and management of dwindling natural capital may someday attain the same level of thought and consideration that is put into the conservation and management of the nation’s financial capital.
|Assessing conservation and management actions with ecosystem services better communicates conservation value to the public
|David M. Mushet, Max Post van der Burg, Michael J. Anteau
|Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management
|USGS Publications Warehouse
|Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center