The forces of rapid urban expansion are causing a rise in demand for urban ecosystem services. This swell in demand is also driving an increase in their perceived value. Therefore, landowners, developers, planners, and cities are keenly interested in how to best manage such environmental assets. The West Coyote Hills property is typical of this phenomenon, and establishes a proof-of-concept for the ARIES approach using real world data at the project site scale (ca. 550 acres).
A complete ARIES assessment of West Coyote Hills can help stakeholders to elucidate how much the surrounding community benefits from the natural functions of the property, in relation to other environmental assets in the watershed. Furthermore, beneficiaries of the carbon sequestration and flood regulation services can be located with precision and the quantity of carbon sequestered and amount of flood protection provided can be calculated and depicted spatially. Moreover, the ARIES maps can help to inform development siting, ecosystem service management, and different planning scenarios can be tested to provide analysis of alternative management approaches. Developers may also choose to use ARIES as a communication tool to present community-based decisions that are firmly founded in science.
The West Coyote Hills case study was completed in two phases. In the first phase ecosystem services and their beneficiaries were identified, from which carbon sequestration and storage and flood regulation were selected for modeling with ARIES. Biophysical, ecological, and socioeconomic spatial datasets were collected and prepared for use with the ARIES system. In phase 2 models were built for carbon sequestration and storage and flood regulation, accounting for regional characteristics of southern California. Further calibration of the models was performed based on preliminary sensitivity analyses and data were integrated into the system for model runs. Then, source, sink, use, and flow simulations were performed resulting in spatial outputs. A total of 16 maps were produced, each providing unique information about how the ecosystem services are generated at West Coyote Hills and delivered to the end users throughout the watershed and beyond. We have not yet completed a third phase, consisting of post hoc sensitivity analysis and optimization techniques, which would yield actionable model outputs to fully support local decision making.