The business of biodiversity: can we put a value on nature? | 3/20/2019 | Staff
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Nature provides people with everything from food and water to timber, textiles, medicinal resources and pollination of crops. Now, a new approach aims to measure exactly what a specific ecosystem supplies in order to incentivise decision-makers and businesses to help combat biodiversity loss.

The concept of quantifying these so-called ecosystem services, which has grown in recent years, has proved controversial for some environmentalists who oppose reducing nature to numbers. Others see it as a way to get businesses and policymakers to account for nature to make better decisions that preserve biodiversity.

First - Ecosystem - Services - Process - Project

First, though, working out what ecosystem services we have, and how much of them, requires mapping where they are. To aid this process, a project called ESMERALDA tested tools and methods to help decision-makers map and assess ecosystem services across Europe.

The end result is an open access online tool that provides full guidance for mapping and assessing ecosystem services.

Message - Dependence - Nature - Everything - Ecosystems

"The key message is to show the human dependence on functioning nature. Everything that we get and receive is related to ecosystems and their functions, and biodiversity," said Professor Benjamin Burkhard, a geographer at Leibniz University in Hannover, Germany, and project coordinator of ESMERALDA.

"If we can really show how much a tree, for example, provides us with fresh air or how much carbon it's sequestering, I think we will have more appreciation of nature's contribution in society and decision-making," he said.

ESMERALDA - Approach - Account - Areas - Biophysical

ESMERALDA's approach takes into account three areas – biophysical, which refers to physical factors such as land use or volume of greenhouse gases – sociocultural and economic.

In its country case studies, ESMERALDA assessed different ways of valuing the three areas. For example, a study on Germany's Bornhöved Lakes District combined biophysical data such as crop volumes and numbers of pollinators with sociocultural information including a survey of people on the aesthetic values of...
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