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Ecosystem Service Assessment and Mapping with Pacific Northwest National Forest Stakeholders


The U.S. Forest Service is now required to include the concept of ecosystem services - defined as the idea that humankind receives a variety of tangible and intangible benefits from ecosystems - in National Forest planning. Pacific Northwest National Forests, however, are only in the early stages of considering ecosystem services within individual forest plans. This doctoral dissertation focuses on investigating how the identification and mapping of ecosystem services using participatory methods can be used to more effectively and equitably inform ecosystem service-based management in the National Forest context. This type of management-relevant, bottom-up identification and mapping of priority ecosystem services, integrating cultural values of diverse groups, is widely called for in the literature, yet case studies on U.S. public lands are lacking.

Semi-structured interviews and participatory mapping exercises were conducted with National Forest planners, managers, and involved stakeholders to better understand perceptions of the ecosystem services concept and the perceived value of ecosystem services to individuals and society. First, interviews with National Forest planners and managers elicited insight on the understanding of the ecosystem services concept and the implications of the concept for management in the US National Forest context. Then, semi-structured interviews and participatory mapping exercises conducted with representatives of groups that are actively involved in stewardship and management of National Forest lands demonstrated methods that can be used for better understanding the wide range of uses, values, and benefits connected to National Forests.

Results indicate that there has been only limited application of the ecosystem services concept in National Forest management and that there are several perspectives among managers regarding what it means to manage for ecosystem services. Stakeholder interviews and mapping exercises revealed which uses, benefits, and values were most highly valued, where they were valued, and the reasons they were valued by participants. Analysis of identified use, value, and benefit categories indicated that while several cultural and provisioning ecosystem services were most highly valued, subcategories therein were complex, resulting in ambiguity, multiple interpretations, and overlapping meanings. Mapping of use, benefit, and value categories demonstrated the spatial distribution of valued categories, highlighting how these distributions appear complementary overall. However, they also pointed to specific areas of potential conflicts and synergies among categories. This dissertation provides useful data for updating National Forest plans to include ecosystem services, broadly, and cultural values toward ecosystem services, specifically. It also demonstrates methods that can used for fulfilling the requirement for National Forests to include ecosystem services throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

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