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Mapping the benefits of our ecosystems
Date:7/1/2013

MADISON We rely on our physical environment for many things clean water, land for crops or pastures, storm water absorption, and recreation, among others. Yet it has been challenging to figure out how to sustain the many benefits people obtain from nature so-called "ecosystem services" in any given landscape because an improvement in one may come at the cost of another.

Two ecologists at the University of WisconsinMadison report this week (July 1) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences a novel approach to analyzing the production and location of 10 different ecosystem services across a landscape, opening the door to being able to identify factors governing their synergies and tradeoffs.

Monica Turner, the Eugene P. Odum Professor of Zoology, and graduate student Jiangxiao Qiu mapped the production, distribution, and interactions of the services in three main categories: provisioning (providing resources like food, fiber, or fresh water), cultural (such as aesthetics and hunting), and regulating (including improving ground and surface water quality, handling floodwater, preventing erosion, and storing carbon). They focused on the Yahara River watershed, which covers much of central portion of Dane County and parts of Columbia and Rock Counties in southern Wisconsin and includes the chain of Madison lakes.

"We found that the main ecosystem services are not independent of each other. They interact spatially in very complex ways," says Qiu, lead author of the new study.

Some of those interactions were not surprising for example, higher levels of crop production were generally associated with poorer surface and ground water quality. However, two other sets of services showed positive associations: flood regulation, pasture and freshwater supply all went together, as did forest recreation, soil retention, carbon storage and surface water quality.

"If you manage for one of these services, you
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Contact: Jiangxiao Qiu
jqiu7@wisc.edu
608-265-8001
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Source:Eurekalert

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