A new report by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) urges the federal government to periodically assess the condition and value of the nation’s ecosystem services. A Quadrennial Ecosystems Services Trends Assessment could build upon existing monitoring efforts, and could be conducted in conjunction with the quadrennial National Climate Assessment.

“It is common wisdom in business that economic growth depends on regular inventories of capital and assets, along with assessments of risks. Given that so much of our Nation’s economy is underpinned by our ecosystems, it is only sensible to periodically take an accounting of our environmental capital and assess the risks to it,” said Rosina Bierbaum, Dean of the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan, and co-chair of the working group that led the study. “Such assessments will greatly inform public policy concerning these assets.”

The report recommends that the government improve online accessibility of biological diversity data that federal agencies already collect. One way to achieve this would be for the government to enforce existing requirements that federal agencies publish data related to biodiversity preservation and ecosystem services within one year of collection. The data.gov website could be an appropriate venue for hosting the data. A coordinating entity should also be established to “interact with international biodiver¬sity and ecosystem information systems in the development of globally accepted biodiversity and ecosystem information standards, and should seek out and encourage partnerships with the private and academic sectors to develop innovative tools for data integration, analysis, visualization, and decision making,” states the report.

PCAST also called for the development of more sophisticated methodologies, such as remote sensing, to value ecosystem services for better prioritization of the $10 billion spent annually by federal agencies on ecological restoration and biodiversity-preservation activities.

To download a copy of the report, visit http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/pcastsustainingenvironmentalcapitalreport.pdf.


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