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Accounting for Natural Resources and Environmental Sustainability: Linking Ecosystem Services to Human Well-Being
Environmental Science & Technology
Format: Journal Article
Publication Year: 2010
Pages: 1530 - 1536
Source ID: shanti-sources-87476
Abstract: One of society’s greatest challenges is to sustain natural resources while promoting economic growth and quality of life. In the face of this challenge, society must measure the effectiveness of programs established to safeguard the environment. The impetus for demonstrating positive results from government-sponsored research and regulation in the United States comes from Congress (General Accountability Office; GAO) and the Executive Branch (Office of Management and Budget; OMB). The message is: regulatory and research programs must demonstrate outcomes that justify their costs. Although the concept is simple, it is a complex problem to demonstrate that environmental research, policies, and regulations cause measurable changes in environmental quality. Even where changes in environmental quality can be tracked reliably, the connections between government actions and environmental outcomes seldom are direct or straightforward. In this article, we describe emerging efforts (with emphasis on the role of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; EPA) to frame and measure environmental outcomes in terms of ecosystem services and values—societally and ecologically meaningful metrics for gauging how well we manage environmental resources. As examples of accounting for outcomes and values, we present a novel, low-cost method for determining relative values of multiple ecosystem services, and describe emerging research on indicators of human well-being.