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A comparison of tools for modeling freshwater ecosystem services

Vigerstol, Kari L., Aukema, Juliann E.
Journal of environmental management 2011 v.92 no.10 pp. 2403-2409
business enterprises, carbon sequestration, ecosystem services, freshwater, government agencies, models, nongovernmental organizations, prediction, water power, water supply
Interest in ecosystem services has grown tremendously among a wide range of sectors, including government agencies, NGO’s and the business community. Ecosystem services entailing freshwater (e.g. flood control, the provision of hydropower, and water supply), as well as carbon storage and sequestration, have received the greatest attention in both scientific and on-the-ground applications. Given the newness of the field and the variety of tools for predicting water-based services, it is difficult to know which tools to use for different questions. There are two types of freshwater-related tools – traditional hydrologic tools and newer ecosystem services tools. Here we review two of the most prominent tools of each type and their possible applications. In particular, we compare the data requirements, ease of use, questions addressed, and interpretability of results among the models. We discuss the strengths, challenges and most appropriate applications of the different models. Traditional hydrological tools provide more detail whereas ecosystem services tools tend to be more accessible to non-experts and can provide a good general picture of these ecosystem services. We also suggest gaps in the modeling toolbox that would provide the greatest advances by improving existing tools.