Decision-making about ways and means to protect and preserve the Sylvan Lake watershed is limited by the lack of information on its value.
The methods used by environmental economists who study ecosystems are explained on a website maintained by the US Department of Agriculture. The following paragraph is an excerpt that introduces a few methods and case histories. Use of USDA reference material is acknowledged.
“The Big Picture” gives a quick overview of ecosystem valuation and why it is important. It also presents some of the practical considerations and issues related to ecosystem valuation.
“Essentials of Ecosystem Valuation” provides a non-technical overview of the economic theory of benefit estimation, and an overview of valuation methods and the practical considerations for applying them. Other sections of the website will assume that the reader understands the concepts discussed in this section.
“Dollar-Based Ecosystem Valuation Methods” describes methods that are used to estimate dollar measures of economic values associated with ecosystems. The section contains articles about specific valuation methods and their application. Each article begins with a brief non-technical overview of the method. This is followed by an illustration that shows how the method might be applied, in step by step fashion, and one or more case study examples. Each article concludes with a more detailed and technical description of the method, and its strengths and limitations.
“Ecosystem Benefit Indicators” describes a framework and methods for developing and using indicators of ecosystem benefits. An indicator is “something that provides a clue to a matter of larger significance or makes perceptible a trend or phenomenon that is not immediately detectable.” Benefit indicators may be as useful as dollar-based benefit measures for purposes of prioritizing spending on environmental conservation, preservation, or restoration. However, they may not be useful for determining whether the economic benefits of these programs exceed the costs.