Opportunities and Priorities for Ecosystem Services in Federal Decision-Making

Saturday, February 18, 2017: 3:00 PM-4:30 PM
Room 310 (Hynes Convention Center)
Stephen Posner, COMPASS, Silver Spring, MD
People depend on healthy ecosystems. For example, healthy forests provide clean water to downstream communities, and intact coastal ecosystems provide valuable storm protection to popular beach towns. But people also make decisions that impact the ability of nature to provide valuable benefits to communities.

Scientists are increasingly studying the benefits people receive from nature (called ecosystem services). In some cases, scientists can estimate the value of nature’s benefits in economic terms. Scientific information about the value of ecosystem services can play an important role in federal policy decisions and natural resource management. For example, information about how healthy, diverse landscapes support animals that pollinate valuable crops (thus leading to higher crop yields) can contribute to policies that enhance pollination services and benefit farmers.

The need to conserve and restore ecosystem services is among today’s most pressing economic and environmental challenges. Where are the opportunities to integrate ecosystem services into federal decision-making? In this presentation, I will identify pathways through which science about ecosystem services can inform federal policy. I will synthesize outcomes from two science-policy roundtable events that brought together academic science and federal agency audiences to explore the frontiers of ecosystem services in federal decision-making.
This is a critical and timely topic, given a 2015 White House Office of Management and Budget Memorandum (M-16-01) directing federal agencies to incorporate ecosystem services in decisions. Lastly, based on my own studies of how research can be designed and carried out to maximize potential impact on policy, I will provide insights for scientists who aim to do research that impacts real-world decisions and responds to societal needs.