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Exploring the Associations between the Ecosystem Integrity Index and Critical Natural Assets

Research Location: Headquartered: Washington , DC
Conservation Partner: Conservation International

Student Researcher

Helenna Yin '23, Major: Data Science, Major: Theatre

Faculty Mentor
Dr. Robert Rose
Project Description

Nature’s contribution to people (NCP) is critical to human well-being, so understanding the ways that the decline of biodiversity and ecosystems is influencing NCP is critical for protecting and promoting human well-being. Two indices have been used to explore global and regional patterns in function and structure of ecosystems and to quantify the contributions of nature to people. The Ecosystem Integrity Index (EII) measures “the extent to which the composition, structure and function of an ecosystem fall within their natural range of variation”.

The Critical Natural Assets (CNA) combines numerous datasources (Nitrogen retention, sedimen retention, crop pollination, fodder for livestock, timber production, fish harvest data, etc.) to identify important ecosystems for providing nature's contribution to people. While these metrics have been used seperately to identify and prioritize conservation initiatives and policy at a global scale, there is a lack of knowledge about the associations between these two metrics needed to understand and mitigate the impacts of ecosystem degredation on human well-being.

With support from mentors from Conservation International and W&M faculty mentors, Helenna Yin explored the patterns and associations between EII and CNA at a global scale. Overall, Helenna found an Inverse spatial correlation between EII and CNA, indicating that low-performing areas with high ecosystem integrity occupies the most land and that EII cannot be used as a proxy for CNA. In general, this research suggests that the ecosystems that provide imporatnt contributions to human well-being do not generally fall within their natural range of variation so more information is needed to explore the relationships between ecosystem function and structure and the contributions of nature to human well-being.

Project ID - Format
22-019-22 - CRP Year