The idea that ecosystems provide society with goods and services that are vital to human well‐being and prosperity has become prominent over the past decade as scientists, economists, resource managers and politicians have considered how to properly value the natural capital of ecosystems. The concept of ecosystem services has simultaneously been used to promote sustainable use of water resources in the Great Lakes, which represent one of the world’s great ‘Blue Economies’.

This week the University of Michigan’s Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research (CILER) is convening top experts from around the Great Lakes to participate in the second of three summits focused on identifying the most pressing research and management needs to achieve sustainability in the Great Lakes.  The summits are centered on each of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory’s (GLERL’s) research programs – Understanding Ecosystems, Forecasting Environmental Change, and Developing Advanced Technology and Observing Systems – and are designed to strengthen CILER’s goals of advancing Great Lakes research and supporting NOAA’s mission.

This week’s summit will bring together experts from multiple fields (physical, biological, and social sciences) and a variety of stakeholders (NGOs, government agencies, academics) to grow a network of individuals who work on valuation of ecosystem services in the Great Lakes.  These experts are charged with summarizing what is known about ecosystem services in the Great Lakes, and setting an agenda for developing the valuation of ecosystems services in the coming decade. The summit kicks off with a focus presentation by John Austin of the Michigan Economic Center, complemented by a focus presentation from University of Michigan Professor Emeritus J. David Allan.

“For those of us who live in the Great Lakes basin, we have a tendency to take our unparalleled water resources for granted.  But, in fact, the value they provide to society is vastly under-appreciated,” says Alan Steinman, Director of Grand Valley State University’s Annis Water Resources Institute.

Brad Cardinale, Director of the Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research (CILER) said “This summit will move us one step closer toward properly valuing how the prosperity and well-being of communities are linked to the largest freshwater system on Earth.”