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Developing Scenarios to Assess Ecosystem Service Tradeoffs: Guidance and Case Studies for InVEST Users

September 09, 2012 |

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Scenarios are storylines that describe possible futures. The ecosystem service outcomes of scenarios can be assessed using InVEST (Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Tradeoffs). InVEST is a software tool for assessing how the location, quantity and value of ecosystem services change under different scenarios. InVEST uses scenarios expressed as maps of land cover or coastal and marine uses.

Many InVEST users have found the tool is most effective when used to assess alternative scenarios. When used in this way, InVEST provides information about the comparative change in ecosystem services with different possible futures. It can thereby inform real choices and involve stakeholders in a powerful learning process. Assessing scenarios with InVEST can help to:

  • compare the delivery of ecosystem services under plausible alternative futures
  • identify the potential ecosystem service tradeoffs of alternative interventions and policies
  • evaluate whether policies help secure the provision of ecosystem services if the future changes unexpectedly
  • consider new ecosystem service policy ideas
  • identify conflicts and develop consensus around a shared vision for the future
  • craft and communicate compelling stories

This guide draws on lessons from InVEST users to provide simple guidelines for developing scenarios. In so doing, we aim to:

  • facilitate the use of scenarios with InVEST
  • improve the quality and effectiveness of scenario development and analysis by InVEST users
  • establish a common understanding of scenario types, goals, processes and methods among InVEST users
  • reduce the time and resources required to develop scenarios for InVEST, particularly for those with limited capacity and data

This guide can help InVEST users select the most appropriate types of scenarios and methods to use, decide how to engage stakeholders, and learn how to make scenario maps. The guidance draws heavily on case experiences where the provision of ecosystem services under alternative scenarios was evaluated using InVEST. We highlight key issues and questions for reflection and provide tools, references and resources for readers who want to learn more.

Read the report here.

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