NEMAC supported the U.S. Forest Service Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center and the Appalachian Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC) Ecosystem Benefits and Risks project. The project presented and summarized a body of studies that have made contributions to understanding the individual and cumulative impacts of environmental stressors on ecosystem services in the Appalachian LCC region. Building on existing work, the project sought to recommend design principles for new landscape-scale vulnerability assessments that can address these knowledge gaps, using the best science to inform and improve ecosystem services management and conservation.
Synthesis of Ecosystem Services
A first step in evaluating the sustainability of Appalachian ecosystem services, and how this varies across landscapes and over time, is having access to and appreciation of existing knowledge. NEMAC supported the development of a website that serves as a synthesis and point of access for Appalachian ecosystem services knowledge.
Ecosystem services are the sustainable benefits that people receive from ecosystems, and upon which societies depend. Examples are many in the Appalachians and surrounding regions, ranging from societal necessities—such as clean drinking water and food production—to local economic activity, such as sustainably harvested forest products and the region’s nature-based tourism industry. They also include less tangible benefits, such as the values that rural communities place on their natural surroundings and from which they derive a special sense of place; the values Americans place on conserving biodiversity; and the value that the global community places on forest carbon storage.
Geospatial Tools for Decision Support
Conservation actors are tasked with conserving these resources sustainably into the future, even as demands upon ecosystem services may in some cases approach unsustainable levels. Another key piece of the project that NEMAC helped to support is the development of geospatial tools that place relevant spatial data in geographic context and provide user access to data that may be used for analysis or planning purposes.