Using ecosystem service trade-offs to inform water conservation policies and management practices


Environmental managers and policy makers are increasingly discussing trade-offs between ecosystem services, but few studies have analyzed these trade-offs with a view to informing land-use planning. Using specialized models, we quantify ecosystem services in several land-use scenarios relative to actual land-use change over a 9-year period. These scenarios were developed in an effort to maintain agricultural production while improving water quality and increasing water quantity in the watershed of the Miyun Reservoir, the only source of surface water currently available for domestic use in Beijing, China. Within the watershed, from 2000 to 2009, forest cover and urban area increased by 33% and 280%, while water provision and water purification services declined by 9% and 27%, respectively. Under a hybrid scenario of agricultural expansion with riparian grassland buffers, three services – water provision, water purification, and sediment retention – as well as agricultural production all improved as compared with 2009 levels. Riparian grassland protection zones, seldom used in China, can effectively resolve trade-offs among multiple ecosystem services and are now being considered and implemented in several locations.

Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 14(10), 527-532
Brian E Robinson
Brian E Robinson
Associate Professor

My research interests include land systems, social-ecological policy, and statistics.