Ecosystem Services Research
Ecosystem goods and services produce the many life-sustaining benefits we receive from nature—clean air and water, fertile soil for crop production, pollination, and flood control. These ecosystem services are important to environmental and human health and well-being, yet they are limited and often taken for granted.
Ecosystem-focused research develops methods that measure ecosystem goods and services and address the following:
- How to estimate current production of ecosystem goods and services, given the type and condition of ecosystems.
- How ecosystem services contribute to human health and well-being.
- How the production and benefits of these ecosystem services may be reduced or sustained under various decision scenarios and in response to regional conditions.
Researchers are exploring and interpreting primary health data and social surveys, and are developing indicators for benefits associated with access to natural areas, such as improved health, reduced costs of healthcare, and improved social ties. Understanding research outcomes will lead to improved environmental management and planning that can inform urban design, strengthen neighborhoods, and contribute to community vitality, economic health, and livability.
- Coastal Community Resilience: EPA is collaborating with partners and stakeholders in the Chesapeake Bay region to investigate the ability of natural infrastructure, ecosystem components such as wetlands, tidal marshes, and seagrasses, to mitigate climate change impacts to coastal communities.
- Ecological Risk Assessment Support Center (ERASC): This support center provides technical information and addresses scientific questions of concern or interest on topics relevant to ecological risk assessment at hazardous waste sites for EPA's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response and Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery.
- Ecosystems and Climate Change Research: Researchers at EPA are providing innovative ways to help communities and resource managers adapt to the impacts of climate change on ecosystems
- Oil Spill Research: EPA researchers and their partners are developing tools and methods to assess and remediate contamination from oil and fuel spills, and are studying the ecological and human health impacts from spilled oils and fuels and the agents used for cleanup activities.
Ecosystem Decision Support Tools
- Causal Analysis/Diagnosis Decision Information System (CADDIS): CADDIS is an on-line application designed to help users conduct causal assessments, primarily in stream ecosystems.
- Eco-Health Relationship Browser: This interactive tool provides information about several major ecosystems in the U.S.; the services they provide; and how those services, or their degradation and loss, may affect people.
- Ecoregion Maps and GIS Resources: These resources are designed to serve as a spatial framework for the research assessment and monitoring of ecosystems and ecosystem components, ecoregions denote areas within which ecosystems (and the type, quality, and quantity of environmental resources) are generally similar.
- Ecosystem Services Tool Selection Portal: EPA's Ecosystem Services Tool Selection Portal is a resource to help communities incorporate the benefits of local ecosystems into their environmental planning and decision-making.
- EnviroAtlas: This site is a collection of interactive tools and resources that allows users to explore the many benefits people receive from nature, often referred to as ecosystem services.
- EcoService Models Library (ESML): ESML is an online database for finding, examining and comparing ecological models that may be useful for quantifying ecosystem goods and services.
- EPA H20 Tool: EPA H2O is a desktop GIS-based decision support tool for assessing the provision of ecosystem services under different land use scenarios.
- Final Ecosystem Goods and Services (FEGS) Scoping Tool: FEGS provides a structured, transparent, and repeatable process for identifying and prioritizing stakeholders, the ways those stakeholders benefit from the environment, and the aspects of the environment necessary to realize those benefits. It is designed as a first step in the decision-making and planning process, providing input before any actions are taken and helping decision makers take a holistic and comprehensive view of the ecosystem services that may be relevant to the context of their decision.
- National Ecosystem Classification System
- National Ecosystem Services Classification System (NESCS)―Framework Design and Policy Application: NESCS provides a framework that will aid in analyzing the human welfare impacts of policy-induced changes to ecosystems.
- National Ecosystem Services Classification System (NESCS) Plus: NESCS Plus serves as a framework for analyzing how changes to ecosystems impact human welfare, and can aid in the analysis of different types of environmental management actions, policies, and regulations.
- Rapid Benefit Indicators (RBI) Approach: The RBI approach is an easy-to-use process for assessing restoration sites using non-monetary benefit indicators. It uses readily-available data to estimate and quantify benefits to people around an ecological restoration site.
- Visualizing Ecosystem Land Management Assessments (VELMA) Model: VELMA can be used to help improve the water quality of streams, rivers, and estuaries by making better use of both natural and engineered green infrastructure to control loadings from nonpoint sources of pollution.
- Lowering Barriers to Achieving Multiple Environmental Goals in the Chesapeake Bay: This order requires federal agencies to work together to bring new resources and tools to the Bay restoration effort, including new approaches to implementing the Clean Water Act and new funding for voluntary efforts by farmers.
- An Optimization Approach to Evaluate the Role of Ecosystem Services in Chesapeake Bay Restoration Strategies: This report assesses pollution control projects and their affects on water quality and ecosystem services.
- Yaquina Bay―Bird Use of Estuarine Habitats: This report is an assessment of bird utilization patterns of the intertidal soft sediment and low marsh habitats of the Yaquina estuary, Oregon.