Climate Change and Ecosystem Services: The contribution of and impacts on Federal Public Lands in the United States

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (2007) reports a likely 2°C to 4.5°C temperature rise in the upcoming decades. This warming is likely to affect ecosystems and their ability to provide services that benefit human well-being. Ecosystem services valuation (ESV), meanwhile, has emerged as a way to recognize the economic value embodied in these services that is not currently reflected in markets. To contribute to better understanding of, and therefore decision-making regarding, the costs and benefits of climate change, other measures affecting the management of the wilderness and other public lands where many ecosystem services are harbored or produced in abundance. We combine GIS analysis with the benefits transfer method to estimate potential global-warming-induced changes in the economic value of ecosystem services produced by US conservation lands. Using conservative assumptions, the overall trend indicates that the majority of ecosystem services values decreases as temperature increases. While some ecosystem service values increase in the 2° scenario in several regions, the values markedly decreased in all but one region under the 4.5° scenario. These results are consistent with other major studies such as the IPCC and the Cost of Policy Inaction and indicate both the important role of public conservation lands in providing ecosystem services and the need for policy action to avoid major economic losses were climate change to impair the health of those lands.

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Research by: Valerie Esposito, Spencer Phillips, Roelof Boumans, Azur Moulert, and Jennifer Boggs