Great Lakes Ecosystem Services Valuation: A Scoping Study


The Great Lakes support economic activities, provide food and other resources, regulate natural processes, and offer recreational and cultural experiences. Values of ecosystem services with established commercial markets, including commercial fishing, tourism, and agriculture, are relatively well understood. However, non-market ecosystem services are more challenging to value and may be overlooked in traditional benefit-cost decision frameworks, risking ineffective or inefficient resource management and policy development. To inform sound decision-making regarding future management and policy affecting Great Lakes ecosystems, the International Joint Commission’s (IJC) Great Lakes Science Advisory Board (SAB) recognizes the need to better understand, measure, and communicate the values of Great Lakes ecosystem services.

Currently, our understanding of the value of Great Lakes ecosystem services is limited. Only a handful of studies have applied non-market valuation methods to the Great Lakes, and most of these applied valuation data derived from regions outside of the Great Lakes rather than conducting new in-basin primary research. Consequently, the gap in valuation data directly relevant to the Great Lakes is immense. For this reason, the SAB undertook this scoping study to determine where the need for valuation data is greatest and to recommend the best options for a future Great Lakes ecosystem services valuation project.