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Social Values for Ecosystem Services

September 1, 2020

SolVES 4.0 Now Available! An open-source version developed for QGIS.

SolVES 4.0 Tool (Includes tool directory, plugin, sample data, and installation files for required QGIS and PostgreSQL software)

SolVES 4.0 Plugin (Plugin only)

User Manual and Tutorial

Archived Versions 2.0 and 3.0

Ecosystem services are the benefits provided by nature, which contribute to human well-being. These benefits can range from tangible products such as food and fresh water to cultural services such as recreation and aesthetics. As the use of these benefits continues to increase, additional pressures are placed on the natural ecosystems providing them. This makes it increasingly important when assessing possible tradeoffs among ecosystem services to consider the human attitudes and preferences that express underlying social values associated with their benefits. While some of these values can be accounted for through economic markets, other values can be more difficult to quantify, and attaching dollar amounts to them may not be very useful in all cases. Regardless of the processes or units used for quantifying such values, the ability to map them and relate them to the ecosystem services to which they are attributed is necessary for effective assessments.

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Location of SolVES and SolVES-related Studies

In response to the need for incorporating quantified and spatially explicit measures of social values into ecosystem service assessments, the geographic information system (GIS) application, Social Values for Ecosystem Services (SolVES), was developed. SolVES is designed to assess, map, and quantify the perceived social values of ecosystem services. Social values, the perceived, nonmarket values the public ascribes to ecosystem services, particularly cultural services, such as aesthetics and recreation can be evaluated for various stakeholder groups. These groups are distinguishable by their attitudes and preferences regarding public uses, such as motorized recreation and logging. SolVES derives a quantitative, 10-point, social-values metric, the “value index”, from a combination of spatial and nonspatial responses to public value and preference surveys and calculates metrics characterizing the underlying environment, such as average distance to water and dominant landcover.

Version 4.0 (SolVES 4.0) has been developed with Python as an open-source tool for QGIS and PostgreSQL. Like previous versions of SolVES, SolVES 4.0 is integrated with the Maxent maximum entropy modeling software to generate more complete social-value maps and to produce robust models describing the relationship between social value intensity and explanatory environmental variables. Maxent also more readily permits the transfer of social-value models to physically and socially similar areas where primary survey data are not available. Due to its flexible design, SolVES 4.0 users are able to define their own social values and public uses, model any number and type of environmental variables, optionally weight mapped survey data, and modify the spatial resolution of analysis.

SolVES has been applied on nearly every continent in biophysical and social contexts including forest, mountain, coastal, riparian, agricultural, and urban ecosystems. SolVES 4.0 provides a tool for decision makers and researchers to evaluate the social value of ecosystems and to facilitate discussions among diverse stakeholders regarding the tradeoffs among different ecosystem services.

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Sample SolVES Output

Getting Started with SolVES 4.0

  • SolVES 4.0 requires QGIS 3.10, PostgreSQL 11, and Maxent 3.4.1 software.
  • Download the SolVES 4.0 tool. If you have previously downloaded the complete tool and only need to update the plugin, use the plugin only link.
  • Refer to the “Navigating the User Manual” section of the user manual for instructions on how the user manual can serve as a quick-start tutorial for gaining hands-on experience with SolVES 4.0.
  • More detailed information about how SolVES 4.0 works, data requirements, advanced options, and troubleshooting is included in the user manual.
  • Journal articles and other SolVES-related publications describing applications of SolVES and similar methods are available.
  • A blank, sample copy of the public value and preference survey described in the User Manual is also available with the SolVES 4.0 tool download.

Although this software program has been used by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), no warranty, expressed or implied, is made by the USGS or the U.S. Government as to the accuracy and functioning of the program and related program material nor shall the fact of distribution constitute any such warranty, and no responsibility is assumed by the USGS in connection therewith.

INFORMATION COLLECTION DISCLAIMER: SolVES is a tool for mapping and analyzing social survey response data. It is not a tool designed for the collection of survey data, nor is any survey attached to SolVES. Any survey or survey response data referred to in the SolVES documentation, sample data, or publications is the work and responsibility of the persons or groups who developed and conducted that survey. Please note that before a Federal agency may collect information or sponsor a collection of information, the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) requires approval from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Any Federal agency or sponsored program interested in developing and conducting a survey for use with SolVES is wholly responsible for submitting an Information Collection Request (ICR) to OMB.

Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.