EcoValuator: Basic Ecosystem Service Valuation for Custom Landscapes
2021-09-29, 16:30–17:00, Aconcagua

The EcoValuator plugin provides a simple means of estimating the dollar value of recreation, water supply, food, and other key ecosystem services for a given study area. Once installed in QGIS, the tool combines satellite land use/land cover data with your own spatial data describing watersheds, conservation areas, or other areas of interest. The EcoValuator then does the work of estimating land area in each land cover type present in your region using the Benefits Transfer Method (BTM) to generate dollar value estimates of the value of the ecosystem services supported by the land use/land cover present in your region.

Ecosystem services are the many benefits to humans provided by the natural environment and healthy ecosystems. This definition emphasizes that ecosystem services are the effects the environment has on people, but it is not just what those effects are that matters. It is also where the effects occur. The “where” is especially what drove us to create the EcoValuator tool in order to better understand ecosystem service effects in our area of interest.

The EcoValuator tool is a QGIS plugin which uses publicly available land use/land cover data to predict the value of the user’s study area. Currently, the plugin supports datasets from the North American Land Change Monitoring System (NALCMS), which covers Canada, Mexico, and the United States, or the National Land Cover Dataset (NLCD) for the US only. EcoValuator does this using the Benefits Transfer Method (BTM) to generate dollar-value estimates of the ecosystems supported by the land use/land cover present in your study area.

BTM provides an accessible way of estimating the value of ecosystem service flows in your study area based on the values estimated in another, similar, setting, called the “source” area. BTM is a practical policy analysis tool when time and resource constraints prevent more involved methods. In the EcoValuator, we employ a version of “unit value transfer” and apply estimates from source studies to the user-defined study area based on matching land cover in both areas. We began with an initial list of more than 1,200 specific estimates of the monetary value of specific ecosystem services arising from specific land cover types and have classified the source studies according to each ecosystem service and have adjusted the monetary values for inflation.

The EcoValuator is a pair of algorithms the user runs in sequence. In Step 1, the input land cover data is clipped to the user-input study area. The amount of each land cover type is calculated and multiplies those areas by the associated ecosystem service value in our input table of research data. Step 2 creates a new raster for which the value is represented per-pixel of the user-selected ecosystem service. Step 3 is optional and creates a nice looking final output in .pdf format.

Though this project currently focuses on North American ecosystems, we plan to expand the use to accommodate land use/land cover data from other regions in the world, principally southeast Asia.

Authors and Affiliations

Erich Purpur - University of Virginia. Charlottesville, Virginia, United States


Use cases & applications


FOSS4G implementations in strategic application domains: land management, crisis/disaster response, smart cities, population mapping, climate change, ocean and marine monitoring, etc.


2 - Basic. General basic knowledge is required.

Language of the Presentation


Erich Purpur is a research librarian at the University of Virginia, located in Charlottesville, Virginia, United States.