This section is an excerpt from the paper “Best Practices for Integrating Ecosystem Services into Federal Decision Making.”
Three best practices can significantly improve and expand ecosystem service considerations in decision making:
- Extend assessments beyond purely ecological measures that are not explicitly tied to people’s values to measures of ecosystem services that are directly relevant to people. This task can be accomplished by using ecosystem service values or preferences or by using measures referred to here as benefit-relevant indicators (BRIs). BRIs reflect well-defined measures of “things valued” by people because they have a direct causal impact on human welfare.
- Assess ecosystem services using well-defined measures that go beyond narrative description and that are appropriate to the analyses, even when data, time, or resources are limited. A data-based approach greatly facilitates the use of formal methods for structured decision making and clear communication of the decision process. Various measurement scales can be developed for such analyses, including continuous, categorical, rank order, and interval scales. The key to such measures is that they can be used subsequently in more formal valuation or decision analysis methods. Narrative descriptions or ambiguously defined categories (e.g., high-medium-low, with no measurable criteria defining these categories) are not best practice.
- Include all important services, even those difficult to quantify. For federal agencies, “important services” may be defined by legal requirements or policy or by evaluating the magnitude of expected change from an action and the importance of that change to people. Some authorities may allow broad consideration of services across agencies and mandates, like the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA).1 However, other authorities and mandates are narrower and will not include all services. Although decision making is clearly better when all significantly affected services that matter to people are included, doing so may require increased coordination across authorities, agencies, and other affected entities to achieve this.
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- D. Bear, “Integration of Ecosystem Services Valuation Analysis into National Environmental Policy Act Compliance: Legal and Policy Perspectives,” in Federal Resource Management and Ecosystem Services Guidebook (Durham: National Ecosystem Services Partnership, Duke University, 2014), https://nespguidebook.com.
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