The Right Tool for the Right Job

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Land managers, regulators and other participants in market-based conservation wanting to assess the ecological benefits provided by restored, enhanced and preserved land now have a one-stop shop for the quantification tools used to measure these benefits, courtesy of the USGS and the USDA.

Market-based conservation uses economic incentives that encourage and improve efficiency in the restoration, enhancement, and preservation of species and habitats.  Quantification tools are vital to the operation of these markets because they are used to measure the quality and functionality of areas of land before or after habitat improvement efforts or land development activities (for example, construction of energy or transportation infrastructure and residential development).

Scientists from the USGS’s Science and Decisions Center and the USDA’s Office of Environmental Markets developed the new one-stop shop database to provide tool developers, tool users, regulatory agencies, landowners and the public with a central location from which to search for quantification tools that apply to specific species, habitats or geographic regions in the United States. 

Quantification tools play vital roles in biodiversity and habitat markets. “This database is all about helping users find the right tool for the right job, to improve efficiency in biodiversity and habitat markets.” said USGS scientist Scott Chiavacci, one of the project leads. “The database first came about because most tools are not widely available, nor is information about them easily accessible.”  

To help rectify these issues, this database describes the features of 69 quantification tools that collectively assess at least 34 species and 39 habitat types throughout the contiguous United States, covering markets that include eco-label certification programs, payments for ecosystem services programs, conservation banks, and habitat exchanges.

In addition to allowing land managers and other users to easily find tools that might suit their needs, the database provides a few other benefits, including helping to minimize redundant tool-building efforts, identifying species and habitats for which no tools or markets currently exist, increasing the ability to assess tool features and reducing the administrative burden of agencies evaluating and approving the use of tools.

“Another potential benefit from this database is encouraging greater standardization in the metrics that we’re using to measure habitat quality and functionality,” said Chiavacci. “If we’re all measuring similar systems in similar ways, that helps generate consistent and comparable output, which in turn can improve the performance of market-based conservation efforts.”

The database can be accessed here and more information can be found here. More information about the USGS Science and Decisions Center can be found here.