The EPM is a Geographic Information System-based multi-criteria decision support web tool that evaluates land use plans and proposed land use/land cover (LU/LC) changes in terms of performance criteria related to three dimensions of value: 1) modeled ecological criteria related to ecosystem services, expressed as “ecological value” 2) predicted land market prices and the associated probability of LU/LC conversion, and 3) community quality-of-life indicators. Each of these dimensions is implemented as a sub-model of the EPM that generates “value maps” for a given land use pattern and set of user-elicited preferences, where the value map reflects changes in parcel and landscape attributes. The modeled parcel/landscape attribute changes are related to land use/cover change, including changes in habitat potential and landscape fragmentation, distances to human perceived amenities, community “character”, flooding and hurricane evacuation risks, water quality buffer potential, ecological restoration potential, and other relevant performance criteria. The individual performance criteria and metrics used to implement the ecological value component and the community quality-of-life indicators were chosen in consultation with potential EPM users and land use stakeholders, using the principles that the criteria must reflect the range of values at stake and predictably respond to land use/cover change.
The EPM web interface allows the user to explore the individual value maps for each unique criterion or, after applying user-chosen multi-criteria weights, as an aggregated value map. The EPM also allows users to evaluate and compare potential land use patterns in a variety of ways. For example, users can examine the resulting value maps for one or more land use/cover patterns under different weighting schemes, allowing the user to explore how different prioritizations of objectives affects the evaluation process. More broadly, users can also compare ecological value maps, predicted land price maps, maps of community quality-of-life indicators for sets of land use/cover patterns to characterize regional-scale trade-offs between ecological, economic, and social values. By using maps as the means of comparison, local details are retained, while regional patterns emerge.