US Department of DefenseEnlisting Ecosystem Services: Quantification and Valuation of Ecosystem Services to Inform Base Management
The Natural Capital Project (NatCap) is collaborating with the Department of Defense (DoD) to develop tools and approaches that map and value ecosystem services in diverse ecosystems and military contexts of DoD installations. Using InVEST models, we are customizing natural capital valuation methods to suit the military environment, which demands attention to immediate training capacity needs as well as investments in long-term resource planning.
The DoD manages 1% of U.S. lands— over 25 million acres—in more than 425 military installations
In 2011 the DoD initiated a three-year pilot project with NatCap to advance its pursuit of sustainable development practices. Ecosystem analyses are being conducted with InVEST on three bases: Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) in Washington State, Ft. Pickett in Virginia, and Ft. Benning in Georgia. NatCap will work with military personnel at all three DoD bases to map ecosystem service provision and value, to specify tradeoffs between training activities and environmental regulation compliance, and to generate future scenarios under different management objectives.
As the third largest federal land management agency, the DoD has broad influence on U.S. resource management practices
Military training areas, spanning over 25 million acres, represent many different ecosystems in the US. These lands are home to over 420 species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and another 500 at-risk species that could be added without proper management. The DoD's exploration of an ecosystem services approach is a critical step in enhancing their decision process to reflect nature's benefits, and in tailoring strategies to preserve them.
InVEST will enable decision-makers from all military divisions to:
- Quantify the relative importance of natural resources on base
- Manage conflict between training and safeguarding natural resources
- Plan for the future resource needs of US military base management
A Forward-Thinking Mission
The US military is transitioning from a compliance-based environmental program to a mission-oriented sustainability approach as it plans for projected changes in force structure and training. NatCap is working with DoD decision makers to improve the efficiency of base management and ensure the value of environmental services from which the military benefits is explicit, quantified and maximized. Running InVEST scenarios will assist the military as it changes over the next decades to conduct new types of training, use new equipment, and increase training capacity.
Evaluating Ecosystem Services at JBLM
Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM) is under pressure to protect the integrity of its prairie and oak woodland habitats, which provide ideal landscape conditions for a variety of Army training needs (e.g., open areas for off-road maneuvers and digging activities) as well as for sensitive species such as the Taylor's Checkerspot butterfly and the Mazama pocket gopher. InVEST is providing planners at JBLM with knowledge about the trade-offs and synergies of management strategies in order to maximize training capacity while protecting critical habitats.modeling and mapping four ecosystem services under three future scenarios at JBLM:
- Sensitive Species Habitat Risk - Relative risk to prairie habitat for four candidate species
- Timber Production - Net value and quantity of timber harvest from natural Douglas fir forest
- Carbon Storage and Sequestration - Quantity and social value of carbon stored and sequestrated from aboveground biomass in forest, woodland, and prairie ecosystems
- Military Training Capacity - Relative extent of infantry and vehicle training intensity and supporting natural environment across training zones
Ecosystem Services at Fort Pickett
At Fort Pickett the DoD must undertake measures to protect the environment from intensive training maneuvers, particularly those occurring from heavy vehicle activities. They must also manage endangered species such as the Michaux's Sumac, control erosion impacting threatened freshwater species of the Nottoway River, and manage a vast network of associated wetland areas. NatCap is currently exploring land management scenarios to fulfill these responsibilities and comply with environmental regulations, particularly those relating to Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) of sediment export and requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Better information about the tradeoffs and synergies between land use and ecosystem service provision is helping render DoD base management more sustainable. An integrated approach to resource management and natural capital valuation bolsters both the ecological environment and the military mission. So far, our work with the DoD has focused on:
- Developing a new prototype model for military training as an ecosystem service
- Training military personnel on the use of our tools and approach
- Creating a tailored user's guide for military spatial planners to continue using InVEST
- Modeling & Mapping key ecosystem services on base under future management scenarios
- Informing practical strategies to maintain diverse landscapes necessary for military training and regulatory compliance
Guy Ziv, Ph.D.