This post was written by Sarah Parsons, Spring 2018 Global Change Fellow.
On a beautiful spring day, amidst the blooming redbuds and leafing Bradford Pear trees, the Southeast CSC March Global Change Seminar took place at NC State.
The topic: “The ‘how and why’ of Integrating Ecosystem Services into Decision Making.” Dr. Lydia Olander, Director of the Ecosystem Services Program at the Nicholas Institute at Duke University and Southeast Climate Science Center Affiliate, and Dr. Mark Borsuk, Associate Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Duke, shared their work with a room filled with students, faculty, and government stakeholders.
Dr. Olander started the talk with a brief discussion about what ecosystem services are and why they are important. She walked the audience through the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment definitions of ecosystem services and highlighted the federal government agencies to date that have targeted ecosystem services in management and decision making. Dr. Olander then showcased a few projects that used ecosystem services in decision making. Throughout her talk Dr. Olander reiterated that ecosystem services are about “connection to people.” How do we quantify the “benefit relevant indicators” (BRI’s) to people in the decision-making process? Sometimes, she noted, these indicators are non-monetary, e.g. “swimmable days” in a recreational lake. She ended her talk by emphasizing the value of using ecosystem services in decision making in a future of climate change and land use change. Most specifically, for example, ecosystem services can provide insight into how to conserve priority areas in an unpredictable future.
Dr. Borsuk then presented on how multi-criteria decision analysis can play a role in decision making with ecosystem services through his work with residents in the upper Merrimack River watershed in New Hampshire. Dr. Borsuk demonstrated how the use of trade-off weights assigned to individual ecosystem services may equip decision makers with a way to evaluate future scenarios and decisions, given availability of different combinations of services. Using this strategy, all of the groups involved in his New Hampshire study, except one, were able to come to a consensus about the value of individual ecosystem services. These results are promising and may help pave a path forward for how decision making can be done with ecosystem services and different stakeholders in the future.
To see and hear the presentations from the seminar you can access the links below.