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Wednesday, April 11 • 4:30pm - 4:45pm
SYMPOSIA-17: Can We Adequately Represent the Spatial Interplay Between Humans and Nature?

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AUTHORS: Marc Russell, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

ABSTRACT: One of the challenges remaining before ecosystem services assessments can become part of mainstream decision making is the need for a way to spatially represent the interplay of nature and humans. Nature’s ecosystems act as natural capital by producing “things” (i.e. stocks and or conditions) that are beneficial to human welfare in the same way that machinery produces traditional economic goods. Here we refer to those things, which are transferred from ecosystems to human economic processes, as final ecosystem services (FES). While at coarse scales there appear to be some FES that are produced by nature and used by humans within the same spatial area (e.g. recreational viewing of flowering trees, canopy cover shade reduced temperatures, wild picked berries), these and other FES rely on specific spatial pathways (e.g. sightlines; hydrologic, atmospheric, transportation or knowledge networks etc.), to connect to human users. We review existing geospatial methods for connecting an ecosystem to its resulting FES and to human users in those locations where the FES are accessed by people. We then compare which of those connections are adequately represented by datasets available to the public via EPA’s EnviroAtlas application. We then consider what layers could be added with future data availability or analytical capability to complete a set that would allow spatial assessment of ecosystem service production, delivery and use. By representing the spatially specific interplays between natural capital production and human use we are able to move towards incorporation of realized human benefits derived from nature into decisions. We can assess potential changes in both production of supply and how accessible that production is to human beneficiaries. This moves us beyond the consideration of ecosystem changes without coupling them to information on human use/demand and should result in decisions that lead to more impactful human welfare results.

Wednesday April 11, 2018 4:30pm - 4:45pm
LaSalle 5 (7th Floor)

Attendees (17)