The overview presents a bird’s-eye view of ecosystem services assessment methods and how they can be put together and contains links to detailed descriptions of various steps. The most efficient way to browse this section is to use this overview to find additional sections of interest.
The original description of ecosystem service methods were developed through the efforts of two technical working groups hosted by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis and the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC), each of which consisted of agency staff and academic experts. One group focused on ecological analysis relevant to ecosystem services. The other focused on social analysis relevant to ecosystem services. The updated version of the framework and methods, which is now available, is based on refinements developed by another SESYNC working group that are described in the companion report Best Practices for Integrating Ecosystem Services into Federal Decision Making.
Brief descriptions of all guidebook sections (in boldface) follow.
Overview and Best Practices
- How to Read—introduces the assessment methods section.
- Methods Overview—reviews all of the ecosystem services assessment methods and how the pieces fit together.
- Best Practices—summarizes overarching best practices for ecosystem services assessment.
- Understanding Socio-Cultural Context—explains how socio-cultural information can inform an assessment.
- Stakeholder Engagement during Scoping—describes how stakeholder engagement techniques can use ecosystem services concepts in planning and management.
- Conceptual Diagrams—provides a systematic way to connect ecological conditions and societal benefits.
- Identifying Services—points to conceptual diagrams and causal chains as approaches for identifying services.
Benefit-Relevant Indicators (BRIs)
- What Are BRIs—defines and describes benefit-relevant indicators (BRIs) and their relevance to ecosystem services assessments.
Selecting Services and Causal Chains
- Selecting Services—provides a set of questions for narrowing the set of services that need to be quantified and analyzed in the assessment process.
- Building Causal Chains—describes how to develop causal chains showing how current conditions, desired conditions, or a management action or policy will propagate through an ecosystem, affecting the provision of ecosystem services and benefits to people.
- Quantifying BRIs—describes beyond-narrative methods for quantifying production, provision, and other changes in ecosystem services and the parties affected by these changes and hence information on what is valued by whom.
- Quantifying Social and Economic Context of BRIs—informs the development of meaningful BRIs and benefits assessment by adding information on the social and economic conditions that impart value to goods and services.
- Overview of Benefits Assessment – describes when an assessment of benefits is needed and compares monetary and non-monetary approaches.
- Monetary Valuation—how to properly use monetary valuation in ecosystem services assessments.
- Non-Monetary Methods: Multi-Criteria Evaluation for Ecosystem Services—how to use non-monetary methods to value ecosystem services
- Other Methods—alternative methods for assessing social impact.
The Decision Process
- Using BRIs in Decision Making—describes how BRIs can be used in alternative matrices, efficiency frontiers, and benefits assessments to inform decision making.
- Displaying Assessment Results with Alternatives Matrices and Maps—describes different ways that assessment results can be displayed.
- Weighting and Aggregation—describes how to weigh competing outcomes and aggregate values or ranks across services.
Stakeholder Engagement—describes how stakeholder engagement can be adapted for ecosystem services assessments.
Using Indicators Effectively—explains how to clearly define indicators, estimate quantitative indicators, and correctly use qualitative measures.
Scenario Analysis and Green Accounting—compares two uses of ecosystem services assessments.
Data and Modeling Infrastructure for National Integration of Ecosystem Services into Decision Making: Expert Summaries—This working paper describes the ecological and social data and models available for quantifying the production and value of many ecosystem services across the United States. To achieve nationwide inclusion of ecosystem services, federal agencies will need to continue to build out and provide support for this essential informational infrastructure.
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