A recent study by Costanza et al estimated the global value of ecosystem services at US$125 trillion per annum and that potential losses through land use change could be between US$4.3–$20.2 trillion per annum. While many of these services are not traded in conventional markets, which makes valuing them challenging, their depletion results in very real impacts to those who rely on them. Ensuring these impacts are captured is important for informing sound resource management and building resilience, particularly with regard to climate change, emergency management and sustainable development.
A recent example of this type of approach in action is the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme's Pacific Ecosystem-based Adaptation Project in the Solomon Islands. The project aims to invest in natural capital through options that improve, maintain or restore services across the island nation. The project draws on community understanding and experience with local ecosystem services, and quantifies the value of these services in monetary terms to help direct investment.
Aither has been delivering the economic component of the project and while there are inherent challenges and assumptions in this type of valuation, it plays a key role in communicating ecosystem services in a lexicon more attuned to investors (whether public or private) and provides evidence to support decision-making. On the other hand it is critical that the values are predicated on the services that are identified by and of most value to local communities.
As environmental pressures continue to increase so will the importance of projects such as this that draw on local level inputs and the value of natural capital in a manner that speaks to and supports policy processes and investment decision-making.
"Well-managed and functioning ecosystems and the services that they provide are essential for maintaining and building national and community resilience to climate change," Mr Patison said. "The ESRAM study will help PEBACC gain a deeper understanding of the resilience and vulnerability in Solomon Islands as well as look at the inter-connectedness between social and ecological systems and how these are being impacted by climate and non-climate drivers." Mr. Patison added.