Can the concept of ecosystem services be practically applied to improve natural resource management decisions?

Wainger, Lisa A
King, Dennis M
Mack, Richard N
Price, Elizabeth W
Maslin, Thomas
Ecological Economics
Publication Year: 
Applying ecosystem service valuation principles to natural resources management has the potential to encourage the efficient use of resources, but can decision support systems built on these principles be made both practical and robust? The limitations to building such systems are the practical limits on managers time to develop or learn tools and the state of the science to support decision-making components. We address this question by applying a cost-effectiveness analysis framework and optimization model to support the targeting of restoration funds to control an invasive grass (Bromus tectorum) in agro-ecosystems. The optimization aims to maximize benefits derived from a suite of ecosystem services that may be enhanced through site restoration. The model combines a spatially-varying cost function with ecosystem service benefit functions that are risk-adjusted to capture the probability of successful restoration. We demonstrate that our approach generates roughly three times the level of ecosystem service benefits (as measured through indicators) compared to the current management strategy of selecting restoration sites that are superlative producers of one ecosystem service. The results showed that spatial (GIS) data and ecosystem understanding were sufficient to formally capture the managers informal decisions and that cost-effectiveness of restoration could be improved by considering the ability of sites to jointly produce multiple ecosystem services and adjusting expected benefits by the probability of success.
Name of Journal: 
Ecological Economics
Resource Type: 
Document Type: 
Journal Issue/Article
Grassland Society of Southern Africa

The Grassland Society of Southern Africa (GSSA) is involved and concerned with the science and practice of range and pasture management. This broad field involves primarily the use and conservation of natural resources. It encompasses applied fields such as livestock production, wildlife management, nature conservation, water catchment management and range and mine-dump rehabilitation. The disciplines include, amongst others, ecology, botany zoology, range and pasture science, animal science, soil science and genetics. This collection includes journal articles from the African Journal of Range and Forage Science as well as related articles and reports from throughout the Southern African region.