Abstract: Session A  11:30 am (BACK)
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Looking Beyond Ecological Functions to The Value of Ecosystem Services
– Stream Case Examples in Greater Houston Region

Deborah January-Bevers
Houston Wilderness
Houston, TX

Co-authors: Deborah January-Bevers1, Lindsey Roche1, Lauren Harper1
1Houston Wilderness, Houston, Texas, USA

Natural landscapes and organisms serve our wellbeing in a great variety of ways: water purification, flood protection, recreation, recharging of aquifers, protection from damage by hurricanes and tropical storms, pollution reduction, carbon sequestration and more. Identifying and understanding the services provided by local ecosystems can lead to impressive, cost-effective success in using ecosystem services to solve infrastructural and environmental issues. The Galveston Bay-Houston region, which encompasses 10 distinct ecoregions, is a huge and diverse assemblage of forests, prairies, bottomlands, wetlands, riparian waterways and shorelines, and receives a tremendous amount of benefits (economic and social value) from the natural world in the form of ecosystem services.  Without the ecosystem services provided by these ecoregions, the Greater Houston Region would economically and environmentally suffer in trying to provide equivalent services to its residents and industries.  Incorporating the value and benefits of ecosystem services into infrastructure and policy decisions in the Greater Houston Region is still evolving but a few best management practices now exist. This presentation is based upon Houston Wilderness’ Ecosystem Services Primer which discusses ways for determining ecosystem service values using 6 different study/valuation methods depending on the goal(s) of the targeted ecosystem service study. Local and regional Gulf area examples are discussed, including corporate use of tertiary treatment wetlands to replace gray infrastructure, increased use of native filtering features in major waterways and runoff detention areas, and the role of wetlands for hurricane protection.  In an expanding urban core such as the Houston-Galveston Region, there is a critical need to: (1) Provide more opportunities for regional recognition and support of the ecological functions in the ecoregions of the Greater Houston Region; (2) Engage in more region-based studies on ecosystem services to better understand the value of natural benefits and the cost-effective infrastructure policies that this understanding will enable; (3) Compare the economic value of ecosystem services to other alternative approaches when making public policy decisions regarding land-use and infrastructure; and (4) More fully incorporate ecosystem services into infrastructure decisions. The presentation will also briefly discuss the eight-county Gulf-Houston Regional Conservation Plan taking place in the Greater Houston area – www.GulfHoustonRCP.org.
See the Ecosystem Services Primer at http://houstonwilderness.org/ecosystem-services/