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From theoretical to actual ecosystem services: mapping beneficiaries and spatial flows in ecosystem service assessments

May 1, 2014

Ecosystem services mapping and modeling has focused more on supply than demand, until recently. Whereas the potential provision of economic benefits from ecosystems to people is often quantified through ecological production functions, the use of and demand for ecosystem services has received less attention, as have the spatial flows of services from ecosystems to people. However, new modeling approaches that map and quantify service-specific sources (ecosystem capacity to provide a service), sinks (biophysical or anthropogenic features that deplete or alter service flows), users (user locations and level of demand), and spatial flows can provide a more complete understanding of ecosystem services. Through a case study in Puget Sound, Washington State, USA, we quantify and differentiate between the theoretical or in situ provision of services, i.e., ecosystems’ capacity to supply services, and their actual provision when accounting for the location of beneficiaries and the spatial connections that mediate service flows between people and ecosystems. Our analysis includes five ecosystem services: carbon sequestration and storage, riverine flood regulation, sediment regulation for reservoirs, open space proximity, and scenic viewsheds. Each ecosystem service is characterized by different beneficiary groups and means of service flow. Using the ARtificial Intelligence for Ecosystem Services (ARIES) methodology we map service supply, demand, and flow, extending on simpler approaches used by past studies to map service provision and use. With the exception of the carbon sequestration service, regions that actually provided services to people, i.e., connected to beneficiaries via flow paths, amounted to 16-66% of those theoretically capable of supplying services, i.e., all ecosystems across the landscape. These results offer a more complete understanding of the spatial dynamics of ecosystem services and their effects, and may provide a sounder basis for economic valuation and policy applications than studies that consider only theoretical service provision and/or use.

Publication Year 2014
Title From theoretical to actual ecosystem services: mapping beneficiaries and spatial flows in ecosystem service assessments
DOI 10.5751/ES-06523-190264
Authors Kenneth J. Bagstad, Ferdinando Villa, David Batker, Jennifer Harrison-Cox, Brian Voigt, Gary W. Johnson
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecology and Society
Index ID 70112919
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center