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Ecosystem Goods and Service (EGS)

The Corps has been under increased pressure by Congress and others to illustrate the value of Ecosystem Restoration projects. Habitat Units and similar ecosystem-based metrics are often used to describe the value of these projects, but these units are poorly understood by the public and often do not serve to convey the full benefits that people derive from fully-functioning ecosystems. Further, the Report to the President on Sustaining Environmental Capital: Protecting Society and the Economy, from the Presidents Council of Advisors on Science and Technology highlighted the need for federal agencies to develop ways to account for ecosystem services, to help illustrate the value of our programs to our nation.

In response, the Corps has initiated a research and development effort through the Ecosystem Management and Restoration Research Program (EMRRP) and coordinated through ERDC and IWR to explore the challenges and opportunities for incorporating ecosystem goods and service (EGS) considerations in Project Planning. This effort uses a multi-prong approach to research the state of the science and best practices with particular focus on the implications to the Corps, the state of our policies and authorities to address EGS, the state of the tools available publically, interagency coordination, and past attempts and case studies. The research will culminate in the development of an analytic framework that will allow planners to systematically address EGS relevant to their projects, and recommend tools for quantifying the effects.

All of the tasks of the Work Unit are listed below: 

  • Principles & Best Practices: A technical note and longer technical report explore the prevalent definitions, classifications, history and conceptual models relating to ecosystem goods and services, and propose working definitions and conceptual models that are appropriate for Corps use, along with implications for the Corps planning process.

  • Policy Review & Analysis: This report reviews and analyzes Corps authority, policy and guidance that either support or impede the integration of ecosystem goods and services information. The report also reviews the policies and practices of other agencies using ecosystem service-based approaches in decision making.

  • Review of Data & Analytical Tools: A database catalogs data sources, analytical tools and models with the potential to support EGS considerations in Corps planning. A synthesis report describes attributes of the tools, discusses strengths and weaknesses, and illustrates how the tools fit in the conceptual model.(in review)

  • Case Study Retrospective: A technical note describes previous and current Corps efforts to address ecosystem goods and services in the planning process, summarizing successes and lessons learned so that such knowledge may be incorporated into the proposed framework. (in prep) 

  • Analytical Framework and Guidelines: Ultimately, the research described above will inform the development of a framework and guidelines that could be used by Corps Districts to analyze ecosystem goods and services in the planning process. (in prep)

    Reports Published from this Work Unit:

  • Murray, E.O., J. Cushing, L. Wainger, and D.J. Tazik. 2013. Incorporating Ecosystem Goods and Services in Environmental Planning: Definitions, Classification and Operational Approaches. EMRRP Technical Note Series. July 2013. ERDC TN-EMRRP-ER-18.

  • Reed, D., L. Martin, J. Cushing. 2013. "Using Information on Ecosystem Goods and Services in Corps Planning: An Examination on Authorities, Policies, Guidance, and Practices." Institute For Water Resources Report 2013-R-07.

  • Tazik, D., J. Cushing, E.O. Murray, L. Wainger. 2013. "Incorporating ecosystem goods and services in environmental planning  A literature review of definitions, classification and operational approaches." ERDC/EL TR-13-17. Vicksburg, MS: US Army Engineer Research and Development Center.

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