River Science

Ecosystem Services Approach

"River-floodplain ecosystems are often species rich, for a variety of reasons having to do with their age, size, habitat complexity, and variability."

Richard E. Sparks, Bioscience

Although ecological systems support plants and animals, they do so much more: They provide vital services to people that improve well-being. Ecosystems, as scientists called them, purify water and air, reduce flood and drought risks, provide food and fuel, and support recreation, to name a few of the many benefits. To ensure these valuable services continue, our natural areas must be healthy to provide these valuable services.

Fortunately, a relatively new field of study, known as ecosystem services, is shedding new light on the importance of ecological services, while also providing new opportunities for protecting the diversity of life found on Earth. The Great Rivers Partnership is working to harness the "win-win" potential of improved ecosystem services and greater conservation action through the implementation of pilot projects, synthesis of lessons learned and development of maps, guidance and decision tools.

The partnership's three-part ecosystem services strategy includes:

  • implementing ecosystem service-based strategies for conservation within the Great Rivers Partnership focal river areas to test and evaluate approaches for achieving conservation outcomes;
  • synthesizing lessons learned from pilot efforts and share this knowledge to foster improvements in the use of ecosystem service-based conservation strategies; and
  • developing mapping, guidance and decision tools to support the integration of ecosystem services into a more comprehensive approach to biodiversity conservation and river basin planning.


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