A recent article in the New York Times about the work Stanford University biology professor Gretchen Daily is doing in Africa and Costa Rica highlights the importance of ecosystem services, or putting a value on ecosystems. Daily co-founded the Natural Capital Project (NCP) in November 2006. NCP, as Daily told the New York Times, works to "quantify in biophysical and dollar terms the value of conserving the forest and its wildlife."
NCP is a joint venture between Stanford University's Woods Institute for the Environment, the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). NCP developed software tools for Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Tradeoffs (InVest) which allows "decision makers" to put a value on natural capital, as its website states. InVest includes coastal and marine ecosystem services.
NCP has several projects in North America: the Sierra Nevada region in California, the Hawaiian Islands, and the West Coast of Vancouver Island in Canada's British Columbia. NCP's other projects are located in China's Upper Yangtze River Basin, Coastal Belize, Sumatra (Indonesia), Northern Andes and Southern Central America (NASCA), and Tanzania's Eastern Arc Mountains.
The Sierra Nevada Region project caught my attention because I have roots in the area. NCP's website gives some interesting facts about the region, which helps someone understand both the importance of NCP having a demonstration project there, and the importance of ecosystem services:
From Dow to the World Bank: putting a value on ecosystems is all the rage
Putting a value on ecosystems is not something that only NCP does. There are companies who seek to quantify ecosystems. For example, Dow Chemical, the company that brings us pesticides, announced its partnership in January with TNC to put a value on ecosystems.
Last October, the World Bank launched its Global Partnership for Ecosystems and Ecosystem Services Valuation and Wealth Accounting. The partnership builds on the UNEP project The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), and will include both developed and developing countries, international organizations like the UNEP and NGOs.
The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBSCD) released its Guide to Corporate Ecosystem Valuation (CEV) in April. The Guide provides a framework for companies to improve "corporate decision-making through valuing ecosystem services," according to the WBCSD.
Photo: Flickr user, Modery
Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.