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3.7 Ecosystem benefit indicators and biophysical ranking methods

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Ecosystem benefit indicators offer quantitative metrics that are correlated with ecological contributions to human well-being and can serve as indicators for these contributions in a specific setting.

Ecosystem benefit indicators use data to provide information related to the demand for, supply (or scarcity) of ecosystem services.

Although the resulting indicators can be correlated with other value measures, such as economic values, they do not themselves provide measures of value.

Quantification of ecological changes in biophysical terms allows these changes to be ranked based on individual or aggregate indicators for use in evaluating policy options based on biophysical criteria previously determined to be relevant to human/social well-being.

The conservation value method develops a spatially-differentiated index of conservation value across a landscape based on an assessment of rarity, persistence, threat, and other landscape attributes, reflecting the contribution of these attributes to sustained ecosystem diversity and integrity.

Ecologists have used these methods to identify the resources or resource-equivalents needed to produce a product or service, using a systems or life-cycle (“cradle to grave”) approach.

These values can be used to prioritize land for acquisition, conservation, or other purposes, given relevant biophysical goals. Based on geographic information system (GIS) technology, the method can combine information about a variety of ecosystem characteristics and services across a given landscape and overlay ecological information with other spatial data.

Assess the lows of energy and materials through complex ecological systems, economic systems, or both. For example, embodied energy analysis measures the total energy, direct and indirect, required to produce a good or service. Similarly, ecological footprint analysis measures the area of an ecosystem (e.g., the amount of land and/or water) required to support a certain level and type of consumption by an individual or population.

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