Appalachian communities often place value on the unique sense of place that comes from living in largely forested areas, but rapid urbanization, energy development, and climate change can put these values at risk. Photo by Ralph Preston.

Matt Cimitile, Appalachian LCC; Stephanie Worley Firley, U.S. Forest Service; David Eisenhower, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Appalachian Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC) and the U.S. Forest Service are releasing products from the first phase of an ongoing study assessing benefits of and risks to the region’s “ecosystem services” — natural assets valued by people, such as clean drinking water, outdoor recreation, forest products, and biological conservation.

A wealth of data, maps, and other knowledge on ecosystem services and risks to their sustainability are now available on the “Ecosystem Benefits and Risks” website within the Appalachian LCC Web Portal. The new website provides regional resources and tools for planners, managers, and the interested publics across the Appalachians.

Lars Pomara, research ecologist with the Forest Service Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center, said the goal of the research is to “link the values that society places on these benefits from nature with threats to their current and future sustainability to inform future resource management decisions and enhance conservation.”

The first phase of the research provides a synthesis of existing knowledge, where users can:

  • Explore the many natural benefits – such as drinking water and recreation – provided by the Appalachian region’s diverse ecosystems;
  • Understand how these natural benefits may be placed at risk by rapid societal and environmental change; and
  • Access online data resources, maps, decision support tools, assessments and scientific literature to incorporate ecosystem benefits and risks information into planning and management decisions.

Building upon this research, the LCC and Forest Service are developing new assessments to better understand how Appalachian ecosystem services have changed – and are likely to change – as a result of urbanization, energy development and other major drivers of environmental change. Future products will include a toolkit to assist managers and partners in strengthening the resilience of landscapes and their capacity to provide important natural benefits, while serving as a model for the LCC Network in delivering ecosystem services science more broadly.

Access the “Ecosystem Benefits and Risks” website.

For more information, email Lars Pomara at lazarusypomara@fs.fed.us.