Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy


System dynamics, ecological modeling, ecosystem restoration valuation


Great Lakes Basin

Service Line

Project Highlights

  • Ecological modeling
  • System dynamics modeling
  • System diagram approach to causal loop development
  • Review of ecological modeling software
  • Evaluation of ecosystem restoration & landscape development planning
  • Evaluation of regional ecological data collection
  • Integration with benefit transfer model for economic valuation

Environmental Consulting & Technology, Inc. (ECT) teamed with Earth Economics (EE), a Washington state-based nonprofit economic consulting firm, to develop a modeling framework for the creation of a value-based decision-making tool for the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE). ECT used a system dynamics approach to describe the relationships between environmental restoration-related management actions and ecosystem function through the creation of causal loop diagrams, and made model recommendations.

Since 2010, significant federal investments have been made in restoring the Great Lakes basin. During this time, a mounting body of scientific evidence and support has been collected to guide more successful ecological restoration projects. While conditions within the region have improved dramatically, a science-based approach that prioritizes management actions can provide a clear pathway by assessing the social, ecological, economic, and cultural benefits of restoration activities.

The goal of this project was to develop the framework for a tool that allows EGLE to communicate the value of past and future investments in restoration to citizens and decision-makers and identifies the proposed management actions/restoration activities that generate the greatest economic value.

ECT evaluated management goals and determined the extent of data available for this region. ECT then created a series of causal loop diagrams to visually represent the interactions between management actions and the environment, focusing on outcomes of interest that link to economic values.

After collecting input from stakeholders and evaluating available data, ECT selected a software to create an ecological modeling framework that converts the visual representation of the actions into mathematical relationships. These relationships predict the value of system variables as they relate to management actions, and thus assist with decision-making.