Report - LTER Ecosystem Services Workshop, Portland May 2007 - Report

(based on notes taken by R. Goericke during the workshop and materials send out by Terry Chapin)



The workshop was organized by Terry Chapin (Univ. of Alaska, Fairbanks and UCB) and took place May 16th at Portland State University (Oregon). 



Pre-Workshop Charge from Steward Chapin


“Prior to the meeting we ask each site to fill out the table provided  below that lists the important ecosystem services that characterize  your site, based on explicit categories of services that were  developed the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.  This is intended to be a draft list that will be refined at the  workshop to ensure consistency in approach across sites.”

CCE Table of Ecosystem Services (compiled by R. Goericke, April 2007)



The Workshop


The objective of the workshop was (from Terry Chapin): “This workshop is the initial step in a cross-site synthesis project on the nature, status, and trends in ecosystem services of all sites in the LTER network. At the workshop, we hope to accomplish four tasks:

(1) develop a list of ecosystem services at all LTER sites;

(2) develop a protocol for rapid assessment of recent trends in these services at all LTER sites;

(3) initiate discussions of more detailed cross-site comparisons of causes and consequences of   changes in ecosystem services as a basis for future proposals to NSF and as a contribution to LTER network planning; and

(4) outline a synthesis paper about LTER ecosystem services that will be co- authored by workshop participants.”


During the workshop we touched on a variety of questions. Of particular importance among these were:


Types of ES and their definitions:  Types are provisioning, cultural, regulating, and supporting (see attached list for examples from our system).  There was some discussion if the concept of a supporting ecosystem service is meaningful or if those might not better be labeled ecosystem functions.


Interactions between ES:  All ecosystems provide multiple ES.  These interact positively or negatively.  E.g. using an ecosystem as a dumping ground for processed sewage can degrade the use of the system for recreational fisheries, i.e. a negative interaction.  In order to resolve conflicts between negatively interacting ES, ‘tradeoffs’ need to be made between these.  Teaching and recreation are likely related positively.   The ES fishing and diving represent a ‘bundle’ since these rely on similar aspects of the ES.   Such bundles represent higher level aggregates that are amenable as objects of study.


Valuation of ES:  This was not really discussed at length but is a very important concept if tradeoffs between ES are to be evaluated.


Critical ES:  The attached list shows that one can label pretty much any interaction of humans with ecosystems an ES.  The question is which ones of these are ‘critical’ or important, worth tracking and or studying.  A definition of critical ecosystem service was presented; however, this definition did not find general acceptance since it was too broad.  The elements of this definition were: 

  • Are ecologically degrading or are expected be on some reasonable time scale
  • There is some demonstrated value – markets, public investments, social awareness
  • Technological substitutes are lacking or environmental management less expensive, more efficient

Alternate approaches are to defined these as: 1.  those that societal organizations keep track of most.  2.  “... critical in the sense that people most rely on or value, or that potentially underpin other important ecosystem services; that may be vulnerable because the trend in the service has been towards degradation; lack of technological substitutes; and/or may be unique to a particular site, or only delivered locally (no off-site substitutes)” (from Terry Chapin).  I believe that this discussion reflected the lack of a framework for the valuation of ES.


Focal and Extended Region:  For the evaluation of ES associated with the LTER sites it was found beneficial to differentiate between the focal region, i.e. the region encompassed by the site, and the ‘more extensive region’, i.e. that region outside our site that is still impacted by the processes in the site.



Breakout Groups:  The workshop participants were divided into groups representing 1. forests, 2. grasslands/arid lands and 3. coastal/marine system (this included pretty much any terrestrial site that was adjacent to salt water).  Initially the objective was to compare critical ES for the different sites and identify drivers of change affecting these.


Morning Activities:  For the coastal/marine systems the following critical ES were identified.  The applicability to the CCE site is indicated as well:

Cultural Identity to water and beach; sense of place    CCE

Food a. fisheries; b. aquaculture & agriculture    CCE

Aesthetic values

Fresh water

Habitat for people

Natural hazard abatement    CCE

Water purification    CCE

Recreation    CCE

Genetic diversity

Pest regulation    CCE

Drivers affecting these ES were : Local population pressure causing habitat loss or habitat degradation and local and global climate change.  Other driver identified in this context – e.g. overfishing, pollution, management practices – can be viewed as subsets of the two drivers listed above.


Afternoon Activities:  We were charged to condense the group specific information into a conceptual framework as follows:  Identify ES bundles (small cluster of strongly interacting ES) within focal regions.  Identify drivers of ESs.  Identify  human demand for the ES and how pattern of demand changes over time.  Identify key feedbacks between demands, drivers and ES, all within the extended region. 

A clear pattern did not emerge during the discussion - at least in my mind - from the group’s discussion.  I am awaiting the groups’ summaries to figure out what we settled on.



Paper to be based on the workshop (post-work shop communication from Terry Chapin)

“We thought that it might be useful to write up a short paper in the near future based on the ideas developed at the workshop that might later be followed up by a paper based on a more thorough analysis of the lists of ecosystem services that each site developed. In the ideal world, this would be a crisp paper aimed for Science or Nature or a slightly less crisp paper aimed at some other high-profile journal that policy makers might read or hear about. Some potential messages from this paper might be:

  1. There are important interactions among critical ecosystem services, so stove-piped management of a single service is likely to have unintended side effects on other critical services.
  2. A few services were listed as critical at most sites: these were distributed among provisioning services (food and water), regulating services (climate and water regulation), and cultural services (recreation/tourism, sense of place, aesthetic values).
  3. The drivers leading to criticality of theses services were primarily changes in population and land-use in the short-term and climate over a longer term. These are similar to the key drivers of change recognized throughout the globe.
  4. The pathways between drivers and consequences of change often differed among sites.”



Post-Workshop Charge from Steward Chapin


1. Based on the discussion at the workshop, please send me a revised list of the 6 most critical ecosystem services at your site (critical in the sense that people most rely on or value, or that potentially underpin other important ecosystem services; that may be vulnerable because the trend in the service has been towards degradation; lack of technological substitutes; and/or may be unique to a particular site, or only delivered locally (no off-site substitutes).

For each of these services please provide a brief description (phrase) explaining why you think it is critical at your site. Please do not include any supporting services in your list of critical services; we will assume that all supporting services are subsumed and essential for the services directly used by people (provisioning, regulating, cultural).


2. Please send me one or more (up to 3) clusters, each consisting of three interacting critical services at your site that will help us identify key synergies, tradeoffs, and interactions. Please explain briefly how the three services within each cluster interact at your site


CCE List of Critical and Interacting Ecosystem Services (compiled by R. Goericke, May 2007)