“Eco-system services” is a recent term that describes the benefits humankind gains from its interaction with natural resources. As such, it requires making complex decisions at the intersection of ecology, society and the economy. In this paper we are specifically interested in the process of making eco-system services decisions in a manner that; considers the interaction of all types of information, honors all stakeholder viewpoints and measures the impacts on all three parts of the intersection. These decisions are often spatial, multi-objective, and based on uncertain data and estimates.
Eco-system services decisions are generally focused on: provisioning, such as the production of food, energy and water; regulating, such as the control of climate and disease; supporting, such as nutrient cycles and crop pollination; or cultural, such as spiritual and recreational benefits. Eco-system service decisions in these areas are complex and plagued by uncertainty. The choices made during the decision-making process have potentially far reaching and crucial impacts across the many diverse stakeholders. In this paper we outline the characteristics of a system to support ecosystem services decisions and present an example of a system developed for supporting a representative, provisioning problem.
The example system was developed to support the siting of wave energy generation devices off the Oregon coast. These machines convert wave energy into electricity. The needed decisions are about where to best locate devices with known impact on the eco-systems, tourism, fishing and other considerations while providing the highest return on investment in terms of electricity generation, jobs developed, and other socioeconomic measures. Before detailing this system, sixteen characteristics of an ideal eco-system services decision are itemized.