Example: Ecosystem Services Quantification and Valuation Tool
• Problem: A global chemical company is interested in incorporating ecosystem services into critical business operations.
• Results: ESG was retained by a global conservation organization to develop an ecosystem services quantification and valuation tool for the chemical company. The tool is envisioned to provide project engineers with an understanding of how the ecosystem benefits a given site and how that translates into operational benefits for the company, and how it translates into monetary and non-monetary values for both the company and communities surrounding its facilities. The tool will provide site managers with a means to assess how ecosystem services are benefitting lands under their control, and will also give them the capability to perform alternatives analyses that can be used to affect site design, operation, and management decisions as a means to optimize environmental and financial outcomes.
Example: Analysis of Restoration Opportunities
• Problem: A leading oil & gas company wanted to identify and prioritize restoration investment opportunities for a site dominated by former agricultural wetlands.
• Results: We quantified the site’s baseline performance of ecosystem functions and services and identified key modifications that could be made to physical and biological attributes on the site that would drive changes in ecosystem function. This information was used to inform the restoration design for the site. We then modeled the anticipated benefits associated with the restoration plan to quantify the amount of change expected to result from the restoration. We advised our client that the value of the improvements could be leveraged in a regulatory compliance context or tracked internally to monitor the company’s environmental performance. As part of this project, we customized the application of our EcoMetrix tool to meet the needs of the client by converting from an individual map unit data collection approach to utilizing a “map unit type” approach, whereby we established representative data sets that could be broadly applied across large areas with only minor modifications.
Example: Using Ecosystem Services for Alternatives Analysis and to support an EIA
• Problem: Our international oil & gas company client wanted to integrate ecosystem services measurement tools into its environmental impact assessment (EIA) decision making process. As part of this, the company wanted to be able to compare alternative design scenarios for the construction of a compressor station in an area located above several small rural communities in the Lower Caucasus Mountains in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia.
• Results: We performed two sets of analyses at a subalpine meadow with numerous springs, streams, and wetlands. First, we reviewed existing EIA data to determine which of that data could be incorporated into an EcoMetrix analysis, and performed a preliminary assessment of the anticipated project impacts associated with the construction of two industrial facilities. For both sites, we quantified baseline and anticipated post-construction ecosystem functional performance and ecosystem services values and performed an uncertainty analysis that focused on the reliability of using existing data, rather than field collected data, to generate assessment outputs.
Second, we performed an on-the-ground ecosystem services assessment for one of the sites. After modeling and quantifying baseline ecosystem function conditions and analyzing potential project activities, we determined which aspects of the project would be expected to increase or decrease the performance of specific ecosystem functions, and those that would most likely create offsite impacts to ecosystem services. Using this information, we identified potential impact reduction and mitigation measures and developed design alternative considerations, which included a potential alternative design for the site.
Example: Early Project Planning Tool
• Problem: A global entertainment company has a corporate “net benefit to ecosystems goal” for all new construction projects and needed an approach for quantifying ecosystem impacts that are applicable across the company’s operations.
• Results: ESG performed pilot studies on 8 project sites and worked with the company’s R&D group to develop ecosystem services quantification metrics that can be used across company operations. We also explored the potential to develop ecosystem services screening tools for use in early project planning and design decision making. Toward this end, we evaluated a large retail/entertainment center and assessed baseline ecosystem functional performance and ecosystem services provisioning capabilities. We developed “design typicals” that begin to establish standard anticipated levels of ecosystem service impact associated with frequently used design treatments (e.g. pre-identified performance scores associated with pavement, sidewalks, buildings, fountains, landscaped areas, etc.). The development of “typical” treatment data is envisioned to ultimately provide a “menu” of design options and associated impacts/benefits for project planners to consider during early project siting, due diligence, and preliminary design decisions.
Example: Quantification Tool for Habitat Exchanges
• Problem: The Environmental Defense Fund needed a quantification tool and protocols that govern multiple Habitat Exchanges for at-risk and threatened species.
• Results: We are developing the quantification protocols that govern the Habitat Exchange Market for two species: Lesser Prairie-Chicken and Greater Sage Grouse. The lesser prairie-chicken is currently proposed to be listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently concluded that the sage grouse also warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Two distinct Habitat Exchanges are being created by EDF as conservation mechanisms to encourage investment that can support the lesser prairie-chicken’s and sage grouse’s habitat. ESG is building the quantification approach and related protocols to assess the habitat conditions of each species. We work with range ecologists and species experts to understand the vegetation and refuge requirements for brood rearing, nesting, and seasonal habitat for the birds, and design a quantification approach to assess habitat for these primary activities. We work with private landowners, industry representatives from energy companies, conservation organizations, state and federal wildlife agencies and scientific and technical experts to develop metrics for determining credits and monitoring guidelines for credit generation and maintenance. We recently completed field tests of the quantification tools and are currently recalibrating both tools based on field results. Pilot testing of the sage grouse habitat quantification tool for mock transactions is scheduled for winter 2013.