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Ecosystem services are the benefits that people receive from ecosystems. Examples are abundant in the Appalachians, from necessities like clean drinking water and food production to sustainably harvested forest products and the region’s nature-based tourism industry. They also include the sense of home that communities find in rural landscapes, the values that Americans place on conserving biodiversity, and the benefits the global community receives from forest carbon storage.

People within and beyond the Appalachian region derive a multitude of benefits from its diverse ecosystems.
Understanding how the flow of ecosystem services to people changes with societal and environmental change is crucial to conserving these benefits.
Benefits derived from the landscape depend not just on the types of ecosystems present, but also on how the benefits are used, and who calls them home.
Mapping Benefits, Risks, and the Human Landscape.

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Conservation actors in the Appalachian region are tasked with caretaking ecosystem services into the future, even as demands upon them from a growing population may in some cases approach unsustainable levels. Stressors on the capacity of natural landscapes to provide ecosystem services are ever-changing, and in many cases pose increasing risks. Some potential stressors, such as resource extraction activities, also produce important benefits to society. The great challenge of ecosystem service conservation is to find a balance that enhances the sustainability of all of the benefits that people value.

A first step in evaluating the sustainability of Appalachian ecosystem services, and how this varies across landscapes and over time, is having access to and appreciation for existing knowledge and data. This site strives to provide such access, offering a regional view of the challenges we face in conserving these crucial resources. Our description of key benefits and risks within the Appalachian Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC) gives an account of potential vulnerabilities to environmental and societal stressors. We focus on resources that are of broadly shared concern, while recognizing regional differences within the highly diverse Appalachian LCC.

A number of regional and national assessments have striven to measure and map the capacity of landscapes to supply ecosystem services, the flow of those services to increasing human populations with changing values and needs, and key drivers of landscape change that affect these capacities and flows. In addition, a wide variety of basic environmental and socioeconomic factors influencing these capacities and flows are well represented in existing maps and spatial data sets. Such products are valuable resources for conservation stakeholders invested in understanding changes in benefits and risks over time, which can help in weighing adaptive management options in a landscape and regional context. We hope to provide a window into this process by collecting such resources together in one place, with a variety of mapped examples and information for accessing data, tools, and detailed assessments.

Recommended Citation

This website was first published in 2015; most recent modification dates can be found at the bottom of individual pages. Citations may be adapted to conform to different style requirements, but in general should include the following:

Appalachian Landscape Conservation Cooperative. 2015. "[NAME OF PAGE]." Guide to Ecosystem Services, last modified [DATE], http://applcc-ecosystemservices.org/.