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Ecosystems Services

Rural landscape with river

Ecosystem goods and services are the many life-sustaining benefits we receive from nature—clean air and water, fertile soil for crop production, pollination, and flood control. These ecosystem services are important to environmental and human health and well-being, yet they are limited and often taken for granted.

Ecosystem-focused research develops methods that measure ecosystem goods and services. This research addresses:

  • how to estimate current production of ecosystem goods and services, given the type and condition of ecosystems;
  • how ecosystem services contribute to human health and well-being; and
  • how the production and benefits of these ecosystem services may be reduced or sustained under various decision scenarios and in response to regional conditions.

Researchers are exploring and interpreting primary health data and social surveys, and are developing indicators for benefits associated with access to natural areas, such as improved health, reduced costs of healthcare, and improved social ties. Understanding research outcomes will lead to improved environmental management and planning that can inform urban design, strengthen neighborhoods, and contribute to community vitality, economic health and livability.

Related Resources

  • Ecological Risk Assessment Support Center (ERASC)
    A support center that provides technical information and addresses scientific questions of concern or interest on topics relevant to ecological risk assessment at hazardous waste sites for EPA's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER) personnel and the Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery (ORCR) staff. 
  • Global Change Impacts and Adaptation Publications
    Publications for a specific discipline or research area.
  • Ground Water and Ecosystem Restoration Research
    Ongoing research is focused on the evaluation and effectiveness of restoration and management activities on groundwater and surface water systems to achieve desired environmental conditions that support and maintain ecosystem services.
  • Oil Spills - Dispersant
    Finalize measurement of the energy dissipation rates in the baffled flask and use this information to conduct the same measurements at a constructed wave tank facility.

Ecosystem Decision Support Tools 

  • Causal Analysis/Diagnosis Decision Information System (CADDIS)
    A website developed to help scientists and engineers in the Regions, States, and Tribes conduct causal assessments in aquatic systems.
  • Decision Support Systems
    EPA decision-support research provides a framework that enables understanding of the role of different participants in the decision problem, as well as the need for an adaptive assessment that responds to their decision support needs.
  • Eco-Health Relationship Browser
    An interactive tool provides information about several of our nation's major ecosystems, the services they provide, and how those services, or their degradation and loss, may affect people
  • Ecoregion Maps and GIS Resources
    Designed to serve as a spatial framework for the research assessment, and monitoring of ecosystems and ecosystem components, ecoregions denote areas within which ecosystems (and the type, quality, and quantity of environmental resources) are generally similar.
  • EnviroAtlas
    A collection of interactive tools and resources that allows users to explore the many benefits people receive from nature, often referred to as ecosystem services.
  • Final Ecosystems Goods and Services Classification System (FEGS-CS)
    FEGS-CS provides a foundation for measuring, quantifying, mapping, modeling, and valuing ecosystem services.

Ecosystem-Specific Resources