Development and application of quantitative methods for ecosystem services
Ecosystem services are benefits that people receive from the environment. Despite recent exponential increases in ecosystem service research, the ecosystem service framework has made little impact on policy and land management decisions, especially in the United States. Two of the main limitations for a lack of ecosystem service considerations in both policy and land management decisions are a need for more advanced quantification methods and the lack of engagement of key stakeholders who are responsible for making land management decisions. This research seeks to address these two limitations by testing and improving quantification methods of ecosystem services and by evaluating agricultural managers' understanding and perceptions of ecosystem services. The main objectives of this research were to (1) test an existing ecosystem service evaluation method in the Upper Mississippi River Basin under current conditions and future climate change, (2) improve understanding of influences of aquatic genetic resource provisioning using the SWAT model, (3) improve quantification methods for climate regulation ecosystem services using the DayCent model; and (4) evaluate Indiana agricultural producers' and conservationists' perceptions of ecosystem services in order to identify the best ways to improve inclusion of the ecosystem service considerations in making agricultural management decisions. For the first objective, previously developed quantification methods for freshwater provision, food provision, erosion regulation, and flood regulation were applied to a large 2-digit HUC watershed in the U.S. (the Upper Mississippi River Basin). The results show that these methods were able to capture tradeoffs between existing ecosystem services, specifically freshwater provision and food provision, in this watershed. Climate change and variability may have considerable impact on ecosystem services in this river basin. For the second objective of this research a Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model was developed to evaluate the possible drivers of an observed change in fish regime the Wabash River that occurred around the 1990's. The results indicated that changing agricultural practices combined with increasing precipitation may have influenced the observed fish regime change. This link between agricultural management decisions and an historical fish regime change in the Wabash River can improve understanding of the link between management decisions and aquatic genetic resource provisioning. The third objective of this research applied a multi-objective genetic algorithm optimization tool (AMALGAM) to improve the performance of the DayCent model and then proposed a quantification method for climate regulation using DayCent. Although the DayCent calibration method was able to improve the performance of the model at the calibration plots for both yield and N2O flux, the N2O flux simulation of the validation plots were not improved due to the influence of two plots with high N2O emissions. This work suggests that although a multi-objective function can be used to calibrate DayCent, the method may work best within a treatment, even if the plots are all at the same location. The climate regulation index that was developed under Objective 3 was able to capture the ability of a local, terrestrial ecosystem to regulate climate. For the last objective, surveys were conducted of Indiana farmers and conservationists, and interviews were held with Indiana farmers. The results indicated that Indiana farmers and conservationists understand ecosystem services, even if they do not use the terminology. It also shows that the existing conservation framework can be utilized to implement ecosystem service based management. By understanding the perceptions of these key stakeholders, the ecosystem service framework can be better implemented in developing management and policy strategies.
Chaubey, Purdue University.
Agricultural engineering|Environmental engineering
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