Policy ForumEcology

Toward a national, sustained U.S. ecosystem assessment

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Science  18 Nov 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6314, pp. 838-839
DOI: 10.1126/science.aah5750

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The massive investment of resources devoted to monitoring and assessment of economic and societal indicators in the United States is neither matched by nor linked to efforts to monitor and assess the ecosystem services and biodiversity that support economic and social well-being. Although national-scale assessments of biodiversity (1) and ecosystem indicators (2) have been undertaken, nearly a decade has elapsed since the last systematic assessment (2). A 2011 White House report called for a national biodiversity and ecosystem services assessment (3), but the initiative has stalled. Our aim here is to stimulate the process and outline a credible framework and pathway for an ongoing assessment of ecosystem functioning (see the photo). A national assessment should engage diverse stakeholders from multiple sectors of society and should focus on metrics and analyses of direct relevance to policy decisions, from local to national levels. Although many technical or science-focused components are in place, they need to be articulated, distilled, and organized to address policy issues.