Government: Plan for ecosystem services

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Science  04 Mar 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6277, pp. 1037
DOI: 10.1126/science.351.6277.1037-a

Natural and managed ecosystems provide food, water, and other valuable services to human societies. Unnoticed by many in the scientific community, the values associated with ecosystem services have been integrated into U.S. government policy. A recent administration memo (1) put U.S. federal agencies on notice: The clock is ticking to integrate ecosystem services into their planning and decision-making. By 30 March 2016, agencies are to describe approaches for “conducting decision-relevant and scale-specific ecosystem-services assessments, as well as plans for effective monitoring and evaluation.” The administration stresses that such policies may be most effective when incorporated into existing decision-making frameworks.

As members of the Ecological Society of America's (ESA's) Steering Committee on the Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) (2), we urge U.S. federal agencies to consider how this recent mandate provides opportunities to leverage the global impact of IPBES while achieving national policy objectives. IPBES, which was established with support from the United States but not mentioned in the administration's memo, provides scientific assessments of the state of biodiversity and ecosystem services (3). At its fourth plenary, one month before the administration's deadline, IPBES will likely approve the first of its global ecosystem service assessments.

We encourage U.S. federal agencies to familiarize themselves with these assessments and the ongoing IPBES work program. Creating a cross-agency policy agenda for understanding, monitoring, and managing ecosystem services in the United States would reduce the risk of scattered and inconsistent national-level policy mechanisms and would align U.S. policy and IPBES goals. Seeking input from the country's scientific community would help build a secure foundation for these policies and offer U.S. scientists an opportunity to contribute their knowledge to the scientific foundations upon which effective environmental policy rests.


  1. ESA, IPBES (http://esa.org/ipbes/).
  2. IPBES (http://ipbes.net/).

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