Ecological habitat and organisms provide ecosystem services to humans and wildlife in a great variety of ways: water purification, flood protection, recreation, recharging of aquifers, protection from damage by hurricanes and tropical storms, erosion control and pollution reduction, carbon sequestration and cleaner air, among many others. Decision-makers of all kinds need to be able to identify, understand and quantify the services provided by local ecosystems in order to adequately plan for and solve infrastructural and environmental issues.
The Galveston Bay-Houston region, which encompasses 10 distinct ecoregions is a diverse assemblage of forests, prairies, bottomlands, wetlands, riparian waterways and shorelines, and receives a tremendous amount of benefits (economic and social value) from the natural world in the form of benefit relevant indicators and ecosystem services. Without the ecosystem services provided by these ecoregions, the Greater Houston Region would economically and environmentally suffer in trying to provide equivalent services to its residents and industries. An Ecosystem Services Primer was produced by Houston Wilderness in 2015, and recently updated, to provide ecological tools and policy planning analysis to incorporate the value and benefits of ecosystem services into infrastructure and policy decisions in the Greater Houston Region and elsewhere.
This presentation is based on this updated ES Primer which discusses ways for determining ecosystem service values using 7 different study/valuation methods depending on the ecological and/or infrastructure goal(s) of a decision-maker. Successful regional green infrastructure and ecological restoration case examples are discussed, including corporate use of tertiary treatment wetlands to replace gray infrastructure, increased use of native filtering features in major waterways and runoff detention areas, and the role of wetlands for urban flooding and hurricane protection.
In an expanding urban core such as the Houston-Galveston Region, there is a critical need to: (1) Provide opportunities for regional recognition and use of the connections between ecological functions, benefit relevant indicators and ecosystem services (ES) to infrastructure planning; (2) Engage in more region-based studies on ES to better understand the relevant indicators and value of natural benefits that can lead to cost-effective infrastructure policies; (3) Compare the economic value of ES to other alternative approaches when making policy decisions regarding land-use, infrastructure investments and environmental adaptation; and (4) More fully incorporate ES into infrastructure decisions. The presentation will also briefly discuss the eight-county Gulf-Houston Regional Conservation Plan taking place in the Greater Houston area – www.GulfHoustonRCP.org.
See the Ecosystem Services Primer at http://houstonwilderness.org/ecosystem-services/