Ecosystem services – the contributions from nature to human well-being – have received increasing emphasis in ecological research and conservation planning. Decision-makers need to know where and how ecosystem services are produced to evaluate tradeoffs among different ecological, economic, and societal goals, such as the maintenance of biodiversity or increasing development. Yet, major questions remain regarding how spatial patterns of ecosystem services change over time, cultural ecosystem services remain relatively understudied, and the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem services remains unresolved. This dissertation addresses knowledge gaps in ecosystem service science by using a combination of empirical field data, social and ecological datasets, process-based biophysical models, and statistical models to study spatial dynamics of ecosystem services in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, a rural, amenity-based region in the United States. Chapter 1 investigates spatial patterns of bioenergy production and land-use competition under future climate scenarios. The remaining three chapters focus on landscape patterns of cultural ecosystem services, advance our understanding of the role of biodiversity in providing cultural ecosystem services, and highlight the importance of underlying ecology and phenology of biotic communities in the provision of cultural ecosystem services.
Using estimates of bioenergy production through 2100 under moderate and very high emissions scenarios, simulation results demonstrated that the spatial locations of high bioenergy supply (i.e., hotspots) shifted as climate changed and were often co-located with areas currently in food production or at high risk of development conversion. Tradeoffs among bioenergy production, crop production, and exurban expansion varied spatially with climate change over time, suggesting the importance of considering future conditions when managing current landscapes to sustain ecosystem services. Using empirical data on wildflower blooms and bird communities, I developed spatial-temporal models of biodiversity-based cultural ecosystem services (i.e., wildflower viewing and birdwatching). Spatial patterns of cultural ecosystem services changed from spring through summer, and these spatial dynamics of cultural ecosystem services affected accessibility of ecosystem services to the public. Results also indicated that beneficiaries of cultural ecosystem services (i.e., birdwatchers) altered use patterns during the same time period, revealing that social preferences play an important role in transfer of cultural ecosystem services. Social preferences also revealed that flower abundance was the most important component of wildflower biodiversity (including species richness, evenness, abundance, number of colors, and presence of key species) to predict people’s aesthetic preference for wildflower communities. Further, this research empirically tested the hypothesis that increased species richness leads to increased cultural ecosystem service value. Collectively, this research provides insights into the spatial patterns and dynamics of ecosystem services in amenity-based landscapes, and emphasizes the importance of considering temporal dynamics and social preferences to inform conservation and management efforts directed at sustaining ecosystem services.