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Evaluating the Ecosystem Services and Benefits of Wetland Restoration by Use of the Rapid Benefit Indicators Approach
Mazzotta, M., J. Bousquin, W. Berry, C. Ojo, Rick Mckinney, K. Hychka, AND C. Druschke. Evaluating the Ecosystem Services and Benefits of Wetland Restoration by Use of the Rapid Benefit Indicators Approach. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management. Allen Press, Inc., Lawrence, KS, 15(1):148-159, (2019). https://doi.org/10.1002/ieam.4101
The Rapid Benefit Indicators (RBI) Approach to benefit indicators provides an easily-applied method for incorporating benefits to people, in addition to ecological benefits, into decisions about ecological restoration or conservation. This may be especially useful in urban settings, by providing a way to compare urban sites to less urban sites based on benefits, and to foster important discussions about benefits. Where functional comparisons alone would lead to low rankings of urban sites, considering benefits puts them on a more equal footing with rural sites by providing valuable additional information.
Wetlands in urban and urbanizing areas are often smaller, more degraded, and subject to more stressors than those in undeveloped locations. Their restored level of functioning may never equal that of a site in an undisturbed landscape. Yet, the social benefits from restoring these wetlands may be significant, because of the relative scarcity of wetlands and natural areas in urban settings and because of the large number of people who may benefit. In this study, we have outlined a systematic approach to compiling non-monetary indicators of wetlands restoration benefits: The Rapid Benefit Indicators (RBI) Approach. The RBI Approach is grounded in economic theory and compatible with methods used by environmental economists to value ecosystem services. We illustrate the RBI Approach with a comparison of two sites within the Woonasquatucket River Watershed in Rhode Island, U.S.A. As an urbanizing watershed, the Woonasquatucket illustrates how decisions may differ when based primarily on ecological benefits versus those that incorporate benefits to people. It demonstrates how small urban sites with relatively low ecological benefits can provide large social benefits.