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An introduction to ecosystem services and the motivation for this study

Ecosystem services are the goods and processes provided by ecosystems that humans value. These
include goods and processes that we directly consume or make use of (provisioning services, e.g., food and timber production) and those that regulate and support the productive capacity of ecosystems (e.g., climate regulation, water maintenance (For more information, click here). The supply of ecosystem services on the urban-rural fringe landscape is greatly affected by the pace and character of urban development and is also expected to be highly impacted by climate change. As urban development continues and the spatial and temporal patterns in temperature and precipitation change at this frontier, the provisioning and regulating services traditionally provided by these areas, including agricultural and forestry production, are likely to change. While there is a growing body of literature investigating how land use modifications affect ecosystem services (e.g., Nelson and Palmer 2007; Nelson et al. 2009; Broussard and Turner 2009) and biodiversity (e.g., Hansen et al. 2005), there are few studies that examine the combined effects of land development and climate change on ecosystem service provision (Nelson et al. 2009; Higgins 2007) in urban-rural interface landscapes.

We will analyze the separate and combined effects of projected land use and climate changes on the supply and value of several provisioning services (food, timber, water), two primary regulating services (water purification and carbon sequestration), and the biodiversity protections produced in an urban-rural fringe area in the Willamette Basin, Oregon, USA (see Study Area for more information). This work builds on recent research that shows these services and biodiversity conservation shift with land conversion and climate change in the Willamette River basin (Nelson et al. 2008; Nelson et al. 2009; Lawler et al. a ; Lewis et al. 2010). We will quantify the level and location of these services on the current landscape (at site and landscape scales), with both biophysical and economic metrics; assess the potential impacts on the provision of these services due to land development and climate change, separately and jointly; and identify the most cost-effective ways to maximize ecosystem service value and habitat provision given expected economic development pressure and climate change in the study area (e.g., Lewis et al. 2010). A special feature of the research is that we will conduct the analysis with two ecosystem service models where one uses data from the farm, forest stand, or urban plot and the other uses landscape-level data. We will compare some model outputs to observed data to make progress on the comparison of these two ecosystem service models (Kareiva et al. forthcoming). When possible, we will make improvements to the ecosystem service models. For example, we will attempt to make the models more sensitive to land management and input use (e.g., Bennett et al. 2009). Our research findings will inform ecosystem service policy development in the study area.