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Publication #SG129

A Spatial Analysis of Cultural Ecosystem Service Valuation by Regional Stakeholders in Florida—A Coastal Application of the Social Values for Ecosystem Service (SolVES) Tool1

Alisa Cofin, Robert Swett, and Zachary Cole2


Livelihoods and lifestyles of people throughout the world depend on a great number of essential benefits provided by nature, called ecosystem services. In the coastal zone, as societal demand increases and available ocean and coastal space diminishes, better methods are needed to balance competing ocean and coastal activities such as shipping, energy production, tourism, and fishing while protecting ecosystem services. Economic value is one important measure for doing so, but some benefits that people obtain from the environment, such as creative inspiration, spiritual enrichment, and reflection, often cannot be quantified by this method.

Researchers from the US Geological Survey are working collaboratively with the Florida Sea Grant College Program to quantify and map these cultural ecosystem services as perceived by the 600,000 residents in Sarasota Bay, FL, a rich coastal lagoon system in the Gulf of Mexico. Project leaders are using a public domain tool developed by the USGS called SolVES, short for Social Values for Ecosystem Services. SolVES is a geographic information system application that helps assess, map and quantify environmental benefits to people.

One goal of the project is to integrate research results with coastal and marine spatial planning applications ( to help coastal planners and community leaders in their daily efforts to manage coastal environments so they are protected from damage. Using information about the attitudes and preferences of people toward places and uses along the coast the USGS SolVES 2.0 tool will provide quantitative models to relate social values assigned to locations by survey respondents with the underlying environmental characteristics of those same locations. Project results will increase scientific and geographic knowledge of how Sarasota Bay residents value their area’s cultural ecosystem services.

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This document is SG129, one of a series of the Sea Grant Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date January 2013. Reviewed August 2015. Visit the EDIS website at


Alisa Coffin, Ph.D., research geographer, Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey; Robert Swett, Ph.D., coordinator, Florida Sea Grant Boating and Waterway Planning Program, and associate professor, School of Forest Resources and Conservation; and Zachary Cole, Ph.D., Department of Tourism, Recreation and Sport Management; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.