Vermont Forest Indicators Dashboard


What are ecosystem services?

Ecosystem services are the many benefits humans and wildlife gain from forests. For example, forests provide timber, firewood, clean water, and maple sap for syrup. They also supply opportunities for hunting, recreation, and wildlife viewing. Forests, thus, contribute greatly to the economy. Forests also supply habitat and food for a variety of wildlife species.

Why are ecosystem services important?

  • We as beneficiaries of ecosystem services sometimes overlook their true value. By providing clean water and storing carbon, trees are essential to life. Without these ecosystem services there would have to be artificial alternatives to perform these same functions.
  • Placing a monetary value on ecosystem system services provides justification for the conservation and protection of forest.

How do we quantify ecosystem services?

To assess ecosystem services, the Forest Indicators Dashboard utilizes data on a wide range of services, including timber harvest, stream indicator species, hunting tags, carbon storage, maple syrup production, recreation rates, and forest bird biodiversity.

  • Timber harvest
    Timber harvest was measured by collecting data on the volume of timber harvested from the wood each year. A larger total harvest indicates the forest was able to provide more resources and jobs, ultimately contributing to the economy. For a high score, the forest must produce high volumes of timber.
  • Indicator species
    The effectiveness of a forest to provide clean water is assessed through the diversity of stream indicator species. A stream indicator species in this context is a macroinvertebrate (insects, worms, or snails) whose presence, absence, or abundance reflects the current condition of the environment. Macroinvertebrates typically require high levels of dissolved oxygen and low turbidity in the water. High diversity indicates a higher functioning stream and water quality, and as a result, a higher score.
  • Hunting tags
    Forests provide habitat for many game animals (deer, wild turkey, and moose). Without healthy forests, these animals would not have sufficient habitat and food, which in turn dictates the number of hunting tags that are available. Ideally, a high number of hunting tag sales indicates healthy populations of game animals as a result of healthy forest habitat, and as a result, a higher score.
  • Carbon storage
    Carbon storage is the amount of carbon stored in forests. Each year, growing trees add more carbon in the form of wood. Some trees die, or lose branches, which add to the decomposing carbon pool on the forest floor. The role of forests in carbon sequestration is critically important in moderating the effect of greenhouse gas emissions. As the amount of carbon storage increases, so too will the score.
  • Maple Syrup
    The total yearly production of maple syrup provides a sense of the health and economic value of the state's sugarbushes. High maple syrup production equates to a high score.
  • Recreation
    Tallying the total count of day use and overnight visitors to Vermont’s forested state parks helps us quantify the use of forests for recreation purposes. A higher number of visitors contributes to a higher overall score.
  • Bird diversity
    The diversity of forest-dwelling birds provides a sense of how well Vermont’s forests support bird habitat, food sources, and reproductive success. A greater diversity of birds will contribute to a higher overall score.