Environmental Management

, Volume 62, Issue 3, pp 608–618 | Cite as

Combining ecosystem services assessment with structured decision making to support ecological restoration planning

  • David M. Martin
  • Marisa Mazzotta
  • Justin Bousquin


Accounting for ecosystem services in environmental decision making is an emerging research topic. Modern frameworks for ecosystem services assessment emphasize evaluating the social benefits of ecosystems, in terms of who benefits and by how much, to aid in comparing multiple courses of action. Structured methods that use decision analytic-approaches are emerging for the practice of ecological restoration. In this article, we combine ecosystem services assessment with structured decision making to estimate and evaluate measures of the potential benefits of ecological restoration with a case study in the Woonasquatucket River watershed, Rhode Island, USA. We partnered with a local watershed management organization to analyze dozens of candidate wetland restoration sites for their abilities to supply five ecosystem services—flood water retention, scenic landscapes, learning opportunities, recreational opportunities, and birds. We developed 22 benefit indicators related to the ecosystem services as well as indicators for social equity and reliability that benefits will sustain in the future. We applied conceptual modeling and spatial analysis to estimate indicator values for each candidate restoration site. Lastly, we developed a decision support tool to score and aggregate the values for the organization to screen the restoration sites. Results show that restoration sites in urban areas can provide greater social benefits than sites in less urban areas. Our research approach is general and can be used to investigate other restoration planning studies that perform ecosystem services assessment and fit into a decision-making process.


Decision making Spatial analysis Non-monetary valuation Wetlands 



Special thanks to Alicia Lehrer for her support in the research process, to John Kiddon for aid in developing the decision support tool and for comments on the manuscript, and to Walter Berry, James E. Lyons, Tim Gleason, Wayne Munns, two anonymous referees and the editor(s) who reviewed the manuscript. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views or policies of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute endorsement or recommendation for use. This contribution is identified by tracking number ORD-022719 of the Atlantic Ecology Division, Office of Research and Development, National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Copyright information

© This is a U.S. Government work and not under copyright protection in the US; foreign copyright protection may apply 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and DevelopmentAtlantic Ecology DivisionNarragansettUSA
  2. 2.U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and DevelopmentGulf Ecology DivisionGulf BreezeUSA

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