While investments in Great Lakes basin restoration have improved conditions in the region, a science-based approach that prioritizes management actions provides a clear pathway for the future. To accomplish this, ECT led the development of the Great Lakes Economic Valuation of Ecological Restoration (GLEVER), a decision support tool that assesses the ecological, economic, and social benefits of restoration activities.
The GLEVER framework uses a system dynamics approach to describe relationships between management actions and ecosystem functions. ECT conducted a data evaluation and gap analysis for available model input data that included stakeholder engagement to ensure a comprehensive dataset that brought previously disparate work into a single integrated tool.
Following the data evaluation, ECT led the development of general quantitative model structure, model equation functional forms, dimensional analysis, equation coding, and integration with economic models developed by the nonprofit firm Earth Economics. The tool utilizes a combination of empirical and mechanistic modeling to analyze and interpret feedbacks and processes controlling water and sediment quality; fish and wildlife health and populations; and habitat quality while accounting for stochasticity in the environment. The tool evaluates a range of restoration activities both past and present and allows users to identify the management actions/restoration activities that generate the greatest economic value and desired ecological outcomes while easily communicating these values to citizens and decision-makers.