Assessing Ecosystem Service Benefits from Military Installations
Dr. Mark Borsuk | Duke University
The United States (US) military operates many military bases with extremely diverse geographic contexts. Many of these bases feature large areas of land that are undeveloped or sparsely developed in comparison to surroundings, providing a wide range of important functions such as flood protection, habitat for plant and wildlife species, recreational opportunities, and carbon sequestration. Therefore, military bases provide substantial ecosystem services, primarily to residents and users of nearby land. This project developed methods to conceptualize and quantify ecosystem services provided by US military bases.
The research team developed conceptual ecosystem service models and related benefit-relevant indicators to visualize and quantify the potential services provided by military bases. They then developed an integrated modeling platform called Model-based Tracking and Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services (MoTIVES) to quantify and evaluate ecosystem services provided by alternative base management strategies. This platform manages probabilistic simulations of biophysical and economic models for relevant ecosystem services. These biophysical and economic models in turn leverage the latest scientific understanding of how management influences environmental endpoints and, where possible, how these endpoints are valued economically.
This report presents conceptual ecosystem service models developed for a number of habitat types and four military bases. The research team provides a proof of concept for MoTIVES by quantifying ecosystem services at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida and outlining how this model can be adapted to other sites. At Eglin, the research team simulated changes in carbon storage, species habitat, flooding, timber harvest, and hunting/fishing across three scenarios: 1) continuation of current management, 2) no natural resource management, and 3) no base.
The simulations show that current natural resource management at Eglin provides important and valuable services, particularly in providing flood protection and habitat for red-cockaded woodpecker. The subset of services the research team modeled total over $110 million (M) in value each year. Net benefits of the current management approach at Eglin is associated with net benefits that are greater than alternative scenarios for land use: net benefits are $40M per year greater than a hypothetical scenario in which the base does not exist and $90M per year greater than a scenario in which base management activities are discontinued. In comparison with these alternative landuse scenarios, current management practices provide more habitat area for 10 out of 12 other at-risk species in the longleaf pine ecosystem (including all pond and beach species), which could not be valued monetarily. Other services provided by Eglin, such as shoreline protection, were not modeled for this pilot case study, but also provide value.
MoTIVES provides relatable estimates of ecosystem service value for individual sites that are readily understandable. The research team also demonstrates how use of an integrated modeling framework improves confidence in overall valuations by tracking interrelated values and uncertainties. The approach is modular and easily transferable to very different contexts, including military bases throughout the US. Finally, including uncertainties and complex environmental phenomena enhances the realism and credibility of the valuations.