The Sustainable Sites Initiative: Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks Page: 6
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Ecosystem services are goods and services of direct or indirect benefit to humans that are produced by
ecosystem processes involving the interaction of living elements, such as vegetation and soil organisms,
and non-living elements, such as bedrock, water, and air.
Researchers have come up with a number of lists of these benefits, each with slightly different wording,
some lists slightly longer than others. The members of the Sustainable Sites Initiative's committees
and staff have reviewed and consolidated the research into the list below of ecosystem services that
a sustainable site can strive to protect or regenerate through sustainable land development and
Global climate regulation
Maintaining balance of atmospheric gases at
historic levels, creating breathable air, and
sequestering greenhouse gases
Local climate regulation
Regulating local temperature, precipitation, and
humidity through shading, evapotranspiration,
Air and water cleansing
Removing and reducing pollutants in air and water
Water supply and regulation
Storing and providing water within watersheds
Erosion and sediment control
Retaining soil within an ecosystem, preventing
damage from erosion and siltation
Reducing vulnerability to damage from flooding,
storm surge, wildfire, and drought
Providing pollinator species for reproduction of crops
or other plants
Providing refuge and reproduction habitat to plants
and animals, thereby contributing to conservation of
biological and genetic diversity and evolutionary
Waste decomposition and treatment
Breaking down waste and cycling nutrients
Human health and well-being benefits
Enhancing physical, mental, and social well-being
as a result of interaction with nature
Food and renewable non-food products
Producing food, fuel, energy, medicine, or other
products for human use
Enhancing cultural, educational, aesthetic, and spiritual
experiences as a result of interaction with nature
reviewing and incorporating myriad public comments on two prior drafts. With the publication of The
Sustainable Sites Initiative: Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks 2009, the Initiative aims to
supplement existing green building and landscape guidelines as well as to provide a stand-alone tool for
Describing sustainable practices
In the course of identifying the specific and measurable criteria for site sustainability, members of the
Initiative's several committees recognized the need to acknowledge that different regions of the country
have distinct requirements and conditions. The committees therefore worked to develop performance
benchmarks that would shift the market toward sustainability while remaining practical and achievable
on a regional basis.
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American Society of Landscape Architects. The Sustainable Sites Initiative: Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks, text, 2009; (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc31157/m1/6/: accessed March 28, 2023), University of North Texas Libraries, UNT Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; .