Measuring Ecosystem Service Benefits: The Use of Landscape Analysis to Evaluate Environmental Trades and Compensation
Ecosystem compensation and exchange programs require benefit analysis in order to guarantee that compensation or trades preserve the social benefits lost when ecosystems are destroyed or degraded. This study derives, applies, and critiques a set of ecosystem benefits indicators (EBIs). Organized around the concept of ecosystem services and basic valuation principles we show how GIS mappings of the physical and social landscape can improve understanding of the ecosystem benefits arising from specific ecosystems. The indicator system focuses on landscape factors that limit or enhance an ecosystem's ability to provide services and that limit or enhance the expected value of those services. The analysis yields an organized, descriptive, and numerical depiction of sites involved in specific mitigation projects. Indicator-based evaluations are applied to existing wetland mitigation projects in Florida and Maryland in order to practically illustrate the virtues and limits of the approach.