Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Brennan T Jordan


The ecosystem services approach seeks to recognize the benefits that people obtain from ecosystems, in order to highlight society’s dependence on natural systems. Ecosystem services fall into four categories: provisioning, regulating, cultural, and supporting services. Most of the ecosystem services research literature is focused on services that arise from biotic components of ecosystems. Ecosystems are dynamic complexes of biotic communities and their physical, non-living environment, interacting as a functional unit. The emphasis on biotic ecosystem services leaves understudied and undervalued the role of the abiotic, physical environment, especially in providing geologic ecosystem services. Geologic ecosystem services have been the focus of some research internationally, but are little studied in the U.S. This study catalogs geologic ecosystem services in the Black Hills of western South Dakota and northeastern Wyoming. Twenty-five unique geologic ecosystem services were identified and verified in the Black Hills, spanning each of the four service categories, and providing direct, indirect, and non-use benefits to society. The Black Hills region is characterized by greater lithologic diversity, more complex structure, and greater geomorphological variability than adjacent physiographic provinces, and is thus an outstanding study area to assess the role of geodiversity in producing geologic ecosystem services. No standardized practice for the quantitative assessment of geodiversity has been established, and as such, researchers implement a variety of procedures to evaluate the geodiversity of an area. Four GIS-based methodologies for the assessment of geodiversity were applied to the Black Hills, with procedures modified to account for data availability and scale difference. Map outputs for these methodologies were evaluated and the procedure of Araujo and Pereira (2018) was found to be most useful and appropriate for the study area. Using this methodology, the largest areas of high geodiversity are in the northern Black Hills. The spatial relationship between geodiversity and the delivery of geologic ecosystem services was qualitatively assessed for all services, highlighting perceived positive and negative correlations, as well as non-correlations. Considered regionally, the high geodiversity of the Black Hills supports a wider array of geologic ecosystem services than surrounding provinces.

Subject Categories



Black Hills, Ecosystem Services, Geodiversity, Geosystem Services

Number of Pages



University of South Dakota

Included in

Geology Commons



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