2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)

Paper No. 276-8
Presentation Time: 10:15 AM


DVARSKAS, Anthony, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794 and FINISDORE, John, Sustainable Flows, Washington, DC 20036, anthony@sustainableflows.com

Decision makers manage urban environments to provide benefits to residents and businesses within cities and their environs. Understanding of geological, chemical, and biological processes and collection of the relevant environmental data and indicators is crucial for building the chain from environmental processes and functions to final ecosystem services and human beneficiaries. Ecosystem service benefits in urban areas might include: (1) cleaner water for swimming, fishing, and other uses because of retention and filtration of pollutants from stormwater; (2) improved health because of cleaning and cooling of the air by ecosystems; and (3) aesthetic and cultural enhancements associated with noise reduction and beauty. One of the ongoing challenges in ecosystem services valuation is the development of integrated models that can provide information to park managers, planners, private developers and policy makers for better decision making. Recent advances in ecosystem services assessment have sought greater alignment of environmental data with economic and accounting principles.

This presentation will review the current state of ecosystem service valuation in urban areas, including a discussion of work done to date and planned in Baltimore, Long Island, New York City, and Philadelphia. We will focus on the ways that environmental data and indicators have been integrated into the ecosystem service assessment and economic valuation process. Longstanding concerns with ecosystem service analyses have been the potential for double counting of ecosystem service values, poor linkages between the ecosystem functions and the proposed ecosystem service benefits, and a “one-off” element to valuation studies that does not permit consistent tracking of ecosystem services over time. Given these concerns, we will also focus on the latest accounting-based approaches for ecosystem services (e.g., the Environmental Protection Agency’s FEGS classification system, the United Nations System of Environmental-Economic Accounting) and discuss the linkage points for environmental data within these frameworks.