Abstract: Session C  9:20 am (Back to Session C)
Looking Beyond Ecological Functions to the Value of Ecosystem Services – Stream Case Examples in The Greater Houston Region

Deborah January-Bevers, President & CEO
Houston Wilderness
Houston, TX

Authors: Deborah January-Bevers1, Lindsey Roche1, Lauren Harper1 1Houston Wilderness, Houston, Texas, USA

Natural landscapes serve our wellbeing in a variety of ways: water purification, flood protection, recreation, aquifer recharge, protection from hurricanes, pollution reduction, carbon sequestration and more. Identifying and understanding the services provided by local ecosystems can lead to impressive, cost-effective success in using ecosystem services to solve infrastructural and environmental issues. The Galveston Bay-Houston region is a diverse assemblage of forests, prairies, bottomlands, wetlands, riparian waterways and shorelines, and receives a tremendous amount of benefits from the natural world in the form of ecosystem services. Without the ecosystem services provided by these ecoregions, the Greater Houston Region would economically and environmentally suffer in trying to provide equivalent services to its residents and industries. Incorporating the value and benefits of ecosystem services into infrastructure and policy decisions in the Greater Houston Region is still evolving but a few best management practices now exist. This presentation is based upon Houston Wilderness’ Ecosystem Services Primer which discusses ways for determining ecosystem service values using 6 different study/valuation methods depending on the goal(s) of the targeted ecosystem service study. Local and regional Gulf area examples are discussed, including corporate use of tertiary treatment wetlands to replace gray infrastructure, increased use of native filtering features in major waterways and runoff detention areas, and the role of wetlands for hurricane protection. In an expanding urban core such as the Houston-Galveston Region, there is a critical need to: (1) Provide more opportunities for regional recognition and support of the ecological functions in the ecoregions of the Greater Houston Region; (2) Engage in more region-based studies on ecosystem services to better understand the value of natural benefits; (3) Compare the economic value of ecosystem services to other alternative approaches when making public policy decisions regarding land-use and infrastructure; and (4) More fully incorporate ecosystem services into infrastructure decisions.