- BESS research is improving the use of existing mapping tools and developing new tools to meet the needs of diverse users.
- The Ecosystem Services Mapping Gateway allows users to find out about on-going projects that map ecosystem services and helps to share and support good practice.
- Estimates of many ecosystem service flows are sensitive to the scale at which they are measured. It is important to choose the appropriate resolution of input data.
- Comparisons of different methods for measuring vegetation using LiDAR revealed that the most commonly used method could be improved.
- The ESI-SIT tool can be used to visualise how different management interventions are likely to change interactions in ecosystem services and is useful for decision-support.
- The Saltmarsh Carbon Stock Predictor uses simple information about vegetation and soil type to predict the quantity and distribution of carbon stored in saltmarshes.
- The Saltmarsh App increases awareness of the importance of saltmarsh and enables anyone to contribute to improved carbon stock prediction.
The Ecosystem Approach aims to involve people in decisions that affect how we use land, so that a full range of ecosystem services can be maintained for society now and in an uncertain future. This means that a wide variety of people and organisations need information about the location and condition of natural resources. Mapping tools can be used in a variety of ways to explore the likely implications of decisions on ecosystem services. BESS research is providing greater access to information on mapping ecosystem services, improving the use of existing mapping tools and developing new tools.
There is growing interest in mapping ecosystem services at a landscape scale as part of implementing the Ecosystem Approach. It is important that new initiatives are able to collaborate with and learn from existing projects. The BESS hosted Ecosystem Services Mapping Gateway provides an interactive way to explore projects and to share good practice. A key decision is the choice or development of mapping tools that are appropriate for the project aims. Mapping tools use Geographical Information System to link habitats to the resources and ecosystem services they provide. They can be particularly useful in the early involvement of stakeholders in clarifying the implications and trade-offs associated with particular decisions about land use. There are a wide variety of open-access mapping tools available that vary in approach and will be appropriate for different needs. Some tools simply show the relative importance of different land types for proving different services and may have been developed for particular local uses only. Others are more sophisticated process-based models that consider a wide range of services at different scales. BESS also part-funds the Ecosystems Knowledge Network (EKN) and their Tool Assessor provides information about a variety of systems that analyse ecosystem services, including mapping tools. The EKN also points to a number of guidance tools to support projects that are mapping ecosystem services.
ARIES, InVEST and LUCI are models that can be used to aid understanding of the interactions and flows of multiple ecosystem services across the landscape to people. BESS researchers have been using and contributing to the further development of these tools. These models treat the landscape in different ways and users need clarity on the implications that their choice of modelling approach has for different needs and scales. Ongoing BESS research by Laurence Jones and colleagues is comparing the three models when investigating how landscape structure influences the delivery of multiple ecosystem services.
Mapping ecosystem stocks and services in urban areas
Modelling ecosystem services using tools such as InVEST first requires knowledge about where different types of landcover are in your area of interest. Full waveform aerial laser scanning (LiDAR) is a valuable tool for surveying that can be used to provide a wide variety of information, such as the 3D structure and density of vegetation. Steven Hancock and colleagues from the F3UES consortium have developed a set of open source tools for mapping vegetation with waveform lidar data in far more detail than has previously been possible [1, 2].
Karen Anderson’s team have been visualising the greenspace in Bedford, Milton Keynes and Luton using the output of the open source LiDAR tools  to build minecraft and physical models. Removing all the buildings and seeing greenspace in 3D improves understanding of the way in which wildlife might move through urban space.
Maps of landcover vary in spatial resolution (pixel size); moderate to coarse resolutions (> 20 m) may be more readily available and cheaper than those at fine resolutions (5 m). Particular habitat features can be more important for modelling some ecosystem services than others and small areas of habitat can be obscured at coarser scales. Users of models need to understand how sensitive their results are to the spatial resolution of the information they are using.
Darren Grafius and colleagues tested this by modelling ecosystem services in the three F3UES cities using landcover maps at 5 m and at 25 m resolution . They were interested in whether the services of carbon storage, sediment erosion and pollination are affected in the same way by these different resolutions. Outputs were sensitive to spatial scale and this varied with the type of service being modelled. Finer scale resolution data resulted in higher estimates of carbon storage and lower sediment erosion, but lower pollination provision. Care needs to be taken to select data at the correct resolution for the question being asked. Given the complexity of urban areas, it might be helpful to use finer scale mapping than is normally used in rural areas.
Resources for policy and practice from BESS researchers:
- The Ecosystem Services Mapping Gateway and Good practice in ecosystem service mapping.
- The Ecosystems Knowledge Network Tool Assessor.
- Locating and measuring natures benefits LWEC Policy and Practice Note 2. David Raffaelli.
- ESI-SIT Ecosystem Service Interactions – Spatial Interactive Tool. Current versions are for the Humberhead Levels NIA and the Tees Valley.
- The Saltmarsh Carbon Stock Predictor and The Saltmarsh App. DURESS.
Mapping and modelling tools
- ARIES Artificial Intelligence for Ecosystem Services.
- LUCI Land Utilisation and Capability Indicator (formerly polyscape). LUCI is not yet released for general use, but the Welsh and New Zealand versions are anticipated to be available by the end of 2016
- InVEST Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Tradeoffs.
For further tools and information visit the EKN Tool Assessor
- Hancock, S., et al., Waveform lidar over vegetation: An evaluation of inversion methods for estimating return energy. Remote Sensing of Environment, 2015. 164: p. 208-224.
- Hancock, S., et al., Measurement of fine-spatial-resolution 3D vegetation structure with airborne waveform lidar: Calibration and validation with voxelised terrestrial lidar. Remote Sensing of Environment, 2017. 188: p. 37-50.
- Grafius, D.R., et al., The impact of land use/land cover scale on modelling urban ecosystem services. Landscape Ecology, 2016. 31(7): p. 1509-1522.
- Skov, M.W., et al., The Saltmarsh Carbon Stock Predictor: a tool for predicting carbon stocks of Welsh and English and salt marshes, UK. CBESS, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service Sustainability programme 2016.