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2023 | Book

Engineering and Ecosystems

Seeking Synergies Toward a Nature-Positive World

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About this book

This book demonstrates how the inclusion of nature in engineering decisions results in innovative solutions that are economically feasible, ecologically viable, and socially desirable. It advances progress toward nature-positive decisions by protection and restoration of ecosystems and respect for ecological boundaries. The topic of this book is an active area of academic research, and leading companies are including goals associated with ecosystem services in their sustainability plans. This book is the first collection of methods and applications that explicitly include the role of nature in supporting engineering activities and describes the role that ecosystems play in supporting technology and industry. It describes approaches, models, applications, and challenges for innovation and sustainability that will be useful to students and practitioners.

Table of Contents

Frontmatter

Introduction and Motivation

Frontmatter
Chapter 1. Why Should Engineering Account for Ecosystems?
Abstract
Engineering activities, like all human activities, rely on goods and services from nature. Goods include minerals, fossil resources, water, and soil, while services include regulation of air and water quality, climate, and soil fertility. Even though it is widely accepted that human activities cannot be sustained without availability of such goods and services from nature, engineering, like most disciplines, has ignored this role of nature and taken it for granted. Traditionally, engineering decisions have not accounted for nature’s carrying capacity and implicitly assumed that nature has an infinite capacity to supply most goods and services. Engineering has also attempted to dominate nature by controlling its intermittence or homeorhesis. Reasons behind this ignorance of nature’s role in sustaining engineering and human activities can be traced to the development of the basic underlying scientific principles. These were developed over the last few centuries when human impact on the environment was relatively tiny, and nature seemed vast and almost infinite. Ignorance of nature is a root cause of many of the sustainability challenges faced by humanity today, including ecosystem degradation. This ignorance can also mean missed opportunities to develop innovative ways of satisfying human needs by developing techno-ecologically synergistic solutions that can meet human needs while protecting and restoring nature. Such nature-positive solutions are estimated to present billions of dollars’ worth of business opportunities and millions of jobs across the world. This book aims to encourage and enable this transformation.
Bhavik R. Bakshi
Chapter 2. Ecosystem Goods and Services
Abstract
This chapter introduces ecosystem goods and services, broadly referred to as ecosystem services (ESs), which are the benefits that people derive from nature. These flows are critical for human well-being which makes it difficult to put a value on their supply. Nevertheless, they have been estimated to be worth tens of trillions of dollars. Various schemes for classifying ES divide them as provisioning, supporting, regulating, and cultural services. Such schemes often consider both services and disservices that nature provides to people. Despite their critical importance, most ESs have declined across the world. This includes goods such as fresh water, fertile soil, minerals, and fossil fuels, and services such as climate regulation, air and water quality regulation, and pollination. The extent of this degradation is captured by the concept of planetary boundaries that quantifies the safe operating space within which humanity needs to function while avoiding irreversible changes to the global environment.
Yazeed M. Aleissa, Ying Xue, Bhavik R. Bakshi

Engineering’s Demand for Ecosystem Services

Frontmatter
Chapter 3. Quantifying the Direct and Indirect Demand for Ecosystem Services
Abstract
This chapter describes various methods to account for the direct and indirect interactions between human activities and the environment. These methods include life cycle assessment (LCA) and footprint analysis. The demand for many ecosystem services can be defined as emissions and resource use for human activities. These environmental interventions can be quantified by various existing sustainability assessment methods. The mathematical formulation and characteristics of various LCA models are described. Also, data sources and software programs to conduct LCA studies are introduced.
Kyuha Lee, Bhavik R. Bakshi
Chapter 4. Water Provisioning Services
Abstract
Apart from performing a crucial part in planetary balance, water as an ecosystem service plays an indispensable role in technological systems and human society. From food to fiber, to transfer and generation of energy, all depend directly or indirectly on the availability of water, whereas the need for clean water is nonnegotiable for good human and ecosystem health. However, the rising impacts of the increasing global population along with explosive material-based technological progress over the past few decades have disturbed the water-ecosystems balance in the wrong direction, with far-reaching implications for future generations. The scientific literature has been successful in outlining the current direct contribution of water to satisfy food, fiber, energy, and basic human needs: however, the hidden or indirect and future role of water provisioning services is less investigated and acknowledged. Herewith, we make an attempt to outline the various ways in which water contributes to human-environmental systems, and through this investigation, we explore how this overextraction of direct and indirect contributions can not only harm technical systems but can also affect human society in the worst ways if water usage continues without restoring ecological balance. We also enlist methods and tools that can illustrate the contributions of water, with the intention of highlighting both the advantages and disadvantages of their scope and applications. This is further followed by a discussion on improvisations of both datasets and the scope of applications that if applied properly can guide policies that can restore water balance at the regional scales while enhancing the combined well-being of society and the planet in the long run. Last, we offer an insight into future applications and enhancements of outlined methods and tools to aid the progress of environmental sustainability-dominated research.
Shelly Bogra
Chapter 5. Biogeochemical Cycles: Modeling the Interaction of Carbon and Nitrogen Cycles with Industrial Systems
Abstract
Biogeochemical cycles maintain the flow of materials across different ecosystem components, thus providing a crucial ecosystem service of material provision for consumption. Along with the provision of materials in useful form, these cycles also provide the supporting ecosystem services. Anthropogenic activities have significantly transformed the balance of these cycles over the preindustrial era as indicated by higher concentration of certain form of chemical elements in ecosystems and atmosphere. Therefore, it is necessary to quantify the impact and dependence of different industrial systems on these cycles, so that corrective actions can be taken to maintain the balance of these biogeochemical cycles. Ecologically Based Life Cycle Assessment provides a useful framework to account for the role of these cycles in industrial activities. In this chapter, Eco-LCA model extended to account for the role of biogeochemical cycle of C and N is described. The Eco-LCA C and N inventory are discussed, and a short application on studying the C-N nexus of transportation fuel is shown. Further, it is also necessary to understand the flow of these materials within anthropogenic/industrial systems. For this, a Physical Input-Output Table (PIOT)-based modeling approach is described. A case study of N cycling through the industrial systems in the state of Illinois is described. Thus, this chapter provides methods and modeling techniques to understand the overall impact of industrial activities on various material cycling flows and also account for dependence of different production systems on these flows.
Shweta Singh
Chapter 6. The Significance of Insect Pollinators: Opportunities and Challenges
Abstract
Ecosystem goods and services are central for human and industrial activity but are often unaccounted for in most environmental sustainability assessments. One such critical ecosystem service is pollination provided by insects. Insect pollinators provide multiple direct and indirect benefits to the agricultural and nonagricultural sectors in an economy. Simultaneously, insect pollinators have faced decline because of multiple stressors including but not limited to pesticide use, lack of forage, climate change, pests, habitat fragmentation, and management practices. This chapter discusses the significant role and contribution that pollinators play for crop and noncrop production. Existing and ongoing efforts for quantifying the economic value of insect pollinators are discussed along with challenges with valuation methods. A synthesis of existing studies focused on economic valuation of insect pollinators is provided. This is followed by a discussion of the need and challenges of including pollinators in life cycle assessment methods. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the possible effects of loss of pollinators along with directions for future work.
Alex Jordan, Mason Unger, Vikas Khanna
Chapter 7. Biodiversity
Abstract
Biodiversity and ecosystem services are vital for humanity. We explain what these terms encompass and show examples of their relevance for our well-being. However, we are currently losing species at unprecedented rates due to a variety of human pressures, such as habitat loss, pollution, or climate change. This makes it very important to be able to quantify biodiversity and, more importantly, quantify impacts on biodiversity. We introduce several examples of indicators to quantify biodiversity as such and explain how to obtain the underlying species richness and abundance information. Afterward we highlight different methods and indexes that are used for quantifying impacts on biodiversity in sustainability assessments tools. Once we understand the magnitude and distribution of impacts, we can take steps to transform production processes and activities to improve and encourage better biodiversity protection. Here, we take a Life Cycle Assessment example to showcase that careful selection of future hydropower reservoirs has a large potential to limit biodiversity impacts.
Francesca Verones, Martin Dorber

Nature’s Capacity to Supply Ecosystem Services

Frontmatter
Chapter 8. Tools for Mapping and Quantifying Ecosystem Services Supply
Abstract
Techniques for mapping and quantifying ecosystem services are gaining increased traction in recent years. They include powerful computational and visual tools for representing ecosystem service supply and for facilitating policy, planning, and management decisions. This chapter describes, evaluates, and critiques the tools and approaches for quantifying ecosystem service supply that are commonly used by both academics and practitioners. Drawing on relevant case studies, this chapter introduces the mapping methods available for characterizing and measuring both single and multiple ecosystem services and offers new insights for the identification of priority areas for ecosystem services management. Despite the growing use of approaches to ecosystem service modeling, current research and application challenges include: (1) Gaps in data availability; (2) inconsistency in mapping approaches; (3) Assessing uncertainties in ecosystem services mapping; and (4) Translating supply into actual benefits. The chapter concludes with suggestions to overcome these challenges through future research, engagement with end users, and integrating ecosystem service quantification and mapping into decision-making processes.
Zhenyu Wang, Karen T. Lourdes, Perrine Hamel, Theresa G. Mercer, Alex M. Lechner
Chapter 9. Designing with Nature: Incorporating Hydrologic Services in Engineering Projects
Abstract
Nature-based solutions now form part of the engineering toolbox for water resources. This chapter explores when and how natural infrastructure can provide hydrologic services drawing on the latest research and practice in two fields: ecosystem-service (ES) science and integrated water resources management (IWRM). The chapter introduces the potential for nature-based solutions to deliver three types of water services: flood risk mitigation, water quality management, and water supply. Cobenefits and trade-offs are inherent to nature-based solutions and need to be assessed in engineering projects. Decision-analysis tools can support this process, in particular by assessing different portfolios of conventional infrastructure and nature-based solutions. Two case studies illustrate these concepts and principles: the assessment of green and gray options for water supply in Brazil, and the design and implementation of green infrastructure for stormwater management and the mitigation of combined-sewer overflows (CSOs) in the United States. Opportunities offered by further integration of ES and IWRM sciences include (i) improved understanding of the ecological functions underlying hydrologic services; (ii) explicit linkage between infrastructure development and beneficiaries (including cobenefits of green infrastructure); and (iii) improved communication of the value of nature-based solutions to a broad range of stakeholders. Cross-pollination between ES science and IWRM improves planning and design practices for water resources, and engineering curricula should adapt to support the evolution of the field.
Perrine Hamel, Andrew J. Guswa
Chapter 10. Improved Air Quality and Other Services from Urban Trees and Forests
Abstract
Urban trees and forests across the globe provide numerous benefits that affect environmental quality and the health and well-being of human populations. These benefits include moderating climate, reducing building energy use and atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), mitigating rainfall runoff and flooding, and improving air quality. Air quality impacts of trees are derived from the altering of local air temperatures, microclimates, and building energy use; direct removal of air pollution by tree leaves; and the emission of various chemicals. At US national level, urban forest benefits are conservatively estimated at $18.4 billion per year; $5.4 billion from air pollution removal, $5.4 billion from reduced building energy use, $4.8 billion from carbon sequestration, and $2.7 billion from avoided pollutant emissions. In New York City, tree benefits equate to over $100 million dollar per year from carbon sequestration ($6.8 million per year), pollution removal ($78 million per year), reduced residential energy costs ($17.1 million per year), reduced carbon emissions from power plants ($1.6 million per year), and reduced runoff ($4.6 million/year). These are just a few of the benefits derived from forests. Understanding how trees function to affect the local physical and social environments can lead to enhanced engineering solutions with trees to improve environmental quality and human health.
David J. Nowak
Chapter 11. Services from Agroecosystems and Their Quantification
Abstract
This chapter covers ecosystem services and disservices to and from agroecosystems, with a specific focus on approaches to measuring and modeling them using remote sensing and ecosystem modeling techniques. It provides a review of existing agroecosystem models, highlights some areas that need to be considered when selecting one model over another, and discusses the potential use of remote sensing techniques in improving the performance of existing agroecosystem models. A case study on the application of a process-driven hydrologic model to assess the water quality effects of agricultural practices in the Muskingum River Basin in the state of Ohio, USA, is also included.
Sami Khanal

Including Nature in Engineering

Frontmatter
Chapter 12. Seeking Synergies Between Technological and Ecological Systems: Challenges and Framework
Abstract
To benefit from the goods and services provided by nature, it is necessary to establish mutually beneficial or synergistic networks of technological and ecological systems. Such synergies can result in human decisions that protect and restore nature by innovative approaches that may not be discovered by conventional techno-centric approaches. This requires new conceptual frameworks and methods for evaluating and designing techno-ecological synergies, which include accounting for the role of ecosystems and considering the intermittent or homeorhetic nature of ecosystems in addressing the desired steady or homeostatic behavior of human-designed systems. The framework of techno-ecological synergy (TES) explicitly accounts for the role of ecosystems in supporting human activities. It complements efforts such as industrial symbiosis and circular economy to benefit from synergies with nature and encourage nature-positive decisions. The framework of TES has been used to include ecosystem services in life cycle assessment and to define absolute environmental sustainability metrics. It also enables the design of integrated networks of human and natural systems and can often result in a larger design space than conventional techno-centric designs.
Bhavik R. Bakshi
Chapter 13. Making the Business Case for Nature-Based Solutions
Abstract
Nature-based solutions, which combine natural and modified ecosystems, are becoming an increasingly important means of addressing environmental and business challenges in a cost-effective manner. The adoption of this natural technology within a company or organization, however, can be challenging as it requires adjusting, often long-standing, engineering, finance, and business practices. In this chapter, we present an example of a tool, the nature scorecard, that was developed and implemented to help drive the adoption of nature-based solutions within one company – The Dow Chemical Company – through its collaboration with The Nature Conservancy. This tool was designed to provide information on a project’s environmental components and performance to complement traditional financial metrics, such as return on investment. We present both technical details of the tool and key qualitative characteristics that should be considered in the development of similar tools and resources. Going forward, robust scientifically grounded information and metrics, like those provided from the nature scorecard, will be critical for driving the continual adoption and integration of nature-based solutions in business decisions. Ultimately, the tool presented here is just one example; future iterations of the tool will need to be informed by on-the-ground use and new relevant science and data.
Martha Rogers, France Guertin, Eric Lonsdorf, Chris Nootenboom, Lianna McFarlane-Connelly, Todd Guidry
Chapter 14. Greenprinting: Urban Planning for Ecosystem Services
Abstract
Cities are faced with multiple challenges in the twenty-first century, from rapid urban growth to climate change. This chapter discusses how to plan for and implement nature-based solutions in cities, presenting techniques to incorporate nature into urban landscapes, which we call “greenprinting.” Urban greenprinting refers to planning how natural habitats or natural features (e.g., street trees, parks, open space, constructed wetlands) can be protected, restored, or created to maximally protect biodiversity and enhance human well-being. This chapter presents four main environmental problems facing cities, which are often the motivation for conducting a greenprint analysis: concerns about health, climate change impacts, stormwater management, and biodiversity maintenance. We then focus on ecosystem services in an urban context, describing which ones are often key for greenprints and the characteristic scales at which they operate. Ecosystem services, like all common or public goods, are underprovided by free markets, providing strong justification for governments to intervention to insure their adequate provision. Next, we present a five-stage process for urban greenprint analyses. We end by discussing a case study from Melbourne.
Robert I. McDonald, Misty Edgecomb
Chapter 15. Wetlaculture: Solving Harmful Algal Blooms with a Sustainable Wetland/Agricultural Landscape
Abstract
Humans have caused both landscape change and climate change, leading to ecological calamities around the world in freshwater and coastal waters. Harmful algal blooms (HABs), more common and wicked because of excessive and nonstop fertilization and runoff from farms and urban areas, are accelerated by climatic increases of water temperatures and stormwater runoff from agriculture fields and cities. The world has lost an estimated 87% of its wetlands, with half of that loss occurring in the twentieth century alone, yet wetlands have been demonstrated to be effective nutrient sinks in hundreds if not thousands of case studies, some for long periods (>20 years) and some at very large scale of 20,000 ha or more.
A new nutrient recycling approach applicable to agricultural landscapes around the world called “wetlaculture” (wetlands + agriculture) could help solve downstream nutrient pollution problems while decreasing the amount of fertilizers added to landscapes. We established three field physical models of replicated wetlaculture mesocosm compounds in 2016 to 2018, two in temperate Ohio and one in subtropical south Florida, for estimating the effectiveness and amount of time needed for wetlands to accumulate nutrients before the wetlands are “flipped” to agriculture that can use the captured nutrients. Early results show significant nutrient retention by the wetland phase of the mesocosm experiments in Ohio. Those mesocosm experiments also allowed us to estimate the importance of hydrologic loading, water depth, seasonal flooding, and vegetation cover. In addition, a preliminary business model suggests that farmers and investors could make profits comparable to crops by receiving payment for ecosystem services (PES) coupled with publicly sold environmental bonds available to investors.
William J. Mitsch, Bingbing Jiang, Samuel K. Miller, Kyle D. Boutin, Li Zhang, Andrew Wilson, Bhavik R. Bakshi
Chapter 16. Design of Agroecological Landscapes
Abstract
Given the large environmental impact of agriculture, it is necessary to transform this important human activity to become nature-positive. The framework of techno-ecological synergy can be used to design agroecological landscapes for meeting human food and renewable energy needs while ensuring that these activities respect local ecological carrying capacity. This approach is illustrated by application to a landscape in Ohio, USA, with available options for land use being solar panels, wind turbines, biomass from switchgrass, continuous corn farming, corn-soybean rotation, wetlands, and trees. Farming can be done with and without tillage. Technologies for converting biomass into fuel include combustion, pyrolysis, fermentation, etc. Ecological uses of the land include planting native tree species and installing wetlands to intercept fertilizer runoff, sequester carbon, and reduce air pollution. Optimization with different objectives indicates that it is possible to design landscapes to respect nature’s capacity while providing food and energy in an economically feasible manner.
Rebecca J. Hanes, Varsha Gopalakrishnan, Bhavik R. Bakshi
Chapter 17. Sustainable Supply Chains by Integrating Life Cycle Modeling and Techno-ecological Synergy with Application to Mitigation of Harmful Algal Blooms
Abstract
Harmful algal blooms (HABs) are a challenge in water bodies across the planet and are often caused by fertilizer runoff from intensively farmed lands. This chapter describes a framework by which producers of biomass-based products could manage their supply chain to encourage mitigation of HABs and their life cycle environmental impacts, while also considering economic implications. The emphasis is on corn-based products such as ethanol in the region around Lake Erie in Northwest Ohio. It shows how wetland ecosystems could be designed synergistically with farming practices, transportation of the corn, and conversion and use of ethanol. The resulting techno-ecologically synergistic supply chains can be environmentally and economically superior to conventional techno-centric supply chains. The resulting designs can help ethanol manufacturers choose between farms, encourage farmers to adopt wetland ecosystems for intercepting and mitigating nutrient runoff, and determine the location of biorefineries for optimizing environmental and economic objectives.
Tapajyoti Ghosh, Bhavik R. Bakshi
Chapter 18. Demand and Supply of Air Quality Regulation Ecosystem Services
Abstract
Despite advancements in pollution control technology, air pollution and carbon emissions still drive global-scale health and climate impacts. Fortunately, our planet provides natural solutions to regulating the quality of the air in the atmosphere. These solutions include the deposition of gas and particulate pollution onto the surface of vegetation and the process of photosynthesis which converts carbon into biomass. To seek synergies between nature-based processes and technological systems, we must be able to account for the uptake rate of ecosystem services and compare it to the emissions related to human and industrial activity. In comparing the demand we place on ecosystem services with the available supply, sustainability becomes an absolute metric rather than relative. Approaches for valuating both the supply and demand of air quality regulating services are discussed in this chapter. Due to the inherent uncertainty that exists in nature, both spatial and temporal dynamics are considered and presented through both analysis and design applications. Further, the role of ecosystems in sustainable design is explored, including how system boundaries can expand to include landscapes in optimization programs. Although many challenges exist in the implementation of techno-ecological synergistic design, existing research highlights the value of ecological systems through their appreciation in value over time and simultaneous co-benefits.
Michael Charles
Chapter 19. Designing Dynamic Synergies Between Ecosystems and Manufacturing Processes
Abstract
Synergistic operation of human-designed systems with ecosystems requires approaches for adapting to the homeorhetic or intermittent dynamic behavior of ecosystems. This chapter describes a fundamentally different approach to the operation of manufacturing processes: instead of aiming to operate at a fixed production rate, techno-ecologically synergistic operation adapts the production rate to nature’s capacity to provide ecosystem services. Such an approach can allow industrial processes to account for and respect nature’s capacity with little compromise in corporate profitability and a reduction in societal health impact of manufacturing. These characteristics are illustrated by means of a case study of a chlor-alkali process and surrounding vegetation that are designed and operated to maintain ground-level ozone below a specified threshold. The resulting optimization problem brings together technological and ecological models and conveys the trade-off between the cost to company and cost to society for diverse techno-centric and techno-ecologically synergistic designs.
Utkarsh Shah, Bhavik R. Bakshi
Chapter 20. Assessing Techno-Ecological Synergies in the Life Cycle of Biofuels
Abstract
Life cycle assessment (LCA) is an environmental impact assessment method which captures all the stages of the life cycle of a commercial product. However, conventional LCA does not account for the role played by ecosystems in supporting human activities. Techno-ecological synergy (TES) is developed to bridge the gap between human and natural systems. Techno-ecological synergy life cycle assessment (TES-LCA) includes ecosystem services (ES) in conventional LCA which quantifies ecosystem services as an absolute reference value. Absolute environmental sustainability (AES) provides insight into the transgression level of human activities as compared to nature’s carrying capacity. TES-LCA is a multiscale framework which assesses ESs from local to global levels using biophysical models and brings in high geospatial resolution. Public and private ownership of ESs is considered separate which illustrates the contributions of stakeholders at different levels. This framework is applied to the soybean biodiesel with a focus on carbon sequestration and water-provisioning services. The local scale, where the production site is located, is considered along with regional and global scales. This case study illustrates that compared to conventional LCA and other AES assessment methods, TES-LCA is more robust and encourages nature-positive actions like ecosystem restoration.
Ying Xue, Ruonan Zhao, Bhavik R. Bakshi
Chapter 21. Designing for Resilience and Sustainability: An Integrated Systems Approach
Abstract
In a hyperconnected and turbulent world, resilience has become an essential business competency that strengthens risk management. Resilience is defined as the capacity for complex systems to survive, adapt, and grow in the face of turbulent change, including gradual stresses and sudden shocks. Modern resilience strategies can help enterprises to embrace change rather than clinging to historical practices. By designing both facilities and supply chain processes for increased flexibility, visibility, and agility, organizations can improve their resilience to unforeseen disruptions, thus contributing to profitability and shareholder value. Moreover, resilience often enhances long-term environmental and social sustainability, as in the case of “circular” economic systems that strive to eliminate waste.
Through collaboration with global manufacturing firms, a comprehensive protocol has emerged for design of resilient and sustainable systems, along with life cycle-based tools for quantifying the resulting benefits. These methods broaden the system boundary to account for the hidden role of ecosystem services in enterprise operations. For instance, network analysis was used to quantify the contribution of pollination services to economic performance, revealing the indirect dependencies of many industrial sectors on natural pollinators. In another application, climate change scenarios were used in an integrated modeling approach to enable climate-resilient design for two industrial processes—heat exchange and urea manufacturing.
Joseph Fiksel, Bhavik R. Bakshi

Socio-economic Aspects of Accounting for Nature

Frontmatter
Chapter 22. Environmental Markets
Abstract
Ecosystems services (ES) and the natural assets that produce them are valued by people. Not all of these values are reflected in markets, but all of them contribute in some ways to human well-being. Economic values of ES and natural assets relate in rigorous ways to the economic concept of welfare, which has been shaped by market logic. The advantage of this approach is that efficiency is defined consistently in the public sector, where it is reflected in cost benefit analysis (CBA) and in the private sector given efficient markets. The benefits and costs of many environmental initiatives have market and nonmarket dimensions, and methods of nonmarket valuation are introduced and discussed. None of this is free of controversy: market actors are often skeptical of nonmarket values, and CBA has critics protesting that market logic dismisses values arising from nonutilitarian ethical stances while paying too much attention to the preferences of the well-off.
Price and value can be harnessed in payment programs and markets that incentivize enhanced provision of ecosystem services. Two such programs, the US sulfur oxides cap-and-trade program and the Australian experiments with conservation auctions, are discussed in some detail. These kinds of markets are intended to serve the public interest in providing ecosystem services efficiently, but they can succeed only if they also provide opportunities for cost-savings and/or business expansion for private operators large and small.
Alan Randall
Chapter 23. Preventing Unintended Harm from Socioecological Interactions
Abstract
Ecosystems provide an intrinsic and inevitable link between engineering projects and society, and indeed all human activities are embedded in ecological reality. While the ecosystem services framework is a helpful way of exploring and analyzing potential synergies between engineering projects and wider environmental processes, its focus is on benefits to humans generically without any explicit regard to specific stakeholders and the plurality of nonutilitarian ways in which they may appreciate or suffer from a particular ecological system. An ecosystem services assessment therefore carries certain risks if used as a tool for decision-making or auditing, and a broader approach is needed. This chapter goes on to outline a pluralistic evaluation framework as a tool to facilitate accounting for the importance of diverse natural processes in engineering solutions. Pluralistic evaluation is illustrated in several areas (hydrology, atmospheric dynamics, and agroecosystems), and a step-by-step approach is outlined for implementing a pluralistic evaluation.
Richard M. Gunton

Directions for the Future

Frontmatter
Chapter 24. Outlook
Abstract
As highlighted throughout this book, ecosystems play a crucial and irreplaceable role in supporting all human activities, including engineering. We also identified some of the reasons why this critical link between human and natural systems has been ignored in most human decisions, including decisions made by engineers. Ignorance of the dependence of human activities on ecosystems makes it a root cause of the unsustainability of human activities. It is also a missed opportunity to develop innovative solutions for meeting human needs that can often be superior to solutions developed by conventional engineering.
Bhavik R. Bakshi
Backmatter
Metadata
Title
Engineering and Ecosystems
Editor
Bhavik R. Bakshi
Copyright Year
2023
Electronic ISBN
978-3-031-35692-6
Print ISBN
978-3-031-35691-9
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-35692-6

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