Dollars and Sense: An Evaluation of Ecosystem Services Provided by Spencer’s Butte Park
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Ecosystem services are often described as the biophysical environment that provide humans and the surrounding habitat with natural, ecological and environmental resources and benefits. Ecosystem services include a wide variety of benefits such as air quality, carbon sequestration, storm water retention, and nutrient cycling; however, they can also refer to a management approach or decision-making process for managing these types of resources. Ecosystem services provide an intrinsic value that has been detailed in recent reports to exceed the value of the entire world’s annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) revenue. In one of the most widely cited ecosystem service valuation studies, researchers in 1997 estimated that the value of services provided by Earth’s ecosystems was at least 33 trillion U.S. dollars, compared to the global (GDP) of approximately 17 trillion dollars at the time. Capital valuation builds an easier understanding about the economic and ecological benefits that are accrued through ecological functions in the environment. Much of the benefits that are realized by humans as a result of ecosystem services are manifested in the form of cost avoidance to storm water infrastructure, provisioning materials such as lumber and foodstuffs, and health benefits such as cleaner drinking water, and reduced air pollution. The research in this report evaluates air quality and carbon sequestration ecosystem services at Spencer’s Butte in Eugene, Oregon. Discussed within is a description of typical ecological services and a portrayal of the unique ridgeline habitats found just south of Eugene, Oregon. The analysis included within this research utilizes a popular and commonly used ecosystem service modelling tool—iTree Vue. The modelling software utilizes land use data, canopy and herbaceous layer composition, and impervious surface descriptions to evaluate ecosystem services on a landscape scale. The findings from the model describe quantification in dollar values of the ecological air quality benefits provided by vegetated habitats on Spencer’s Butte.