Public Release: 

Guidebook focuses on ecosystem service approach to decision making

Resource managers get help putting value on nature's benefits

Duke University

DURHAM, N.C. -- Many of the benefits nature provides to people are poorly accounted for in management decisions because resource managers haven't had access to materials and tools that support ways to account for such benefits.

A new online resource, the Federal Resource Management and Ecosystem Services Guidebook, helps meet this need. The guidebook provides a consistent approach for federal resource managers to account for benefits such as the coastal protection offered by oyster beds or the carbon sequestered in soils that help to stabilize the climate.

The guidebook will be unveiled at the A Community on Ecosystem Services Conference Dec. 8-12, in Arlington, Virginia.

"Ecosystem services contribute to human health, wealth and well-being," said Lydia Olander, who directs the National Ecosystem Services Partnership (NESP), an initiative of Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy. "Paying attention to ecosystem services in natural resource planning and management can help agencies better balance the multiple natural benefits that people care about."

The guidebook, which was jointly developed by NESP, federal agencies and other partners, allows resource managers to better communicate with people about the positive and negative effects of natural resource management decisions. It also helps them explicitly consider how to balance outcomes that matter to people and to avoid unintended consequences.

As an example, a water resource manager focused on reducing flood-risk might use the guidebook to assess how improving the water retention capacity of a flood plain rather than building a levee could enhance services such as fishing, birding, recreation and water quality.

"Adopting an ecosystem services framework helps us communicate to the American public how benefits accrue to them through our conservation actions," said Edward Maillett, senior economist at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Agencies such as this are exploring the ecosystem services approach to decision-making -- more than a dozen explorations and applications of the approach are documented in the guidebook.

"The time is ripe for the land-management agencies to embrace the ecosystem services framework," said John Allen, a U.S. Forest Service supervisor at Deschutes National Forest. "The Forest Service is starting to understand that this is a great tool for helping our communities and public-interest groups become involved in how this country manages its public lands."

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NESP, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Geological Survey, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Resources for the Future, the Nature Conservancy and a number of others participated in or contributed to development of the guidebook. It was funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation with in-kind support from federal agencies and other organizations.

Watch the introductory video and explore the guidebook online at http://www.nespguidebook.com.

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