Managing the Andean páramo ecosystems to provide multiple benefits

Andean paramos_946x318_scaled_cropp

Geneva, 11 October 2013

A landscape-level program prioritizes some areas for conservation, others for restoration, and others for natural resource use.

The high Andean páramo ecosystems contain important wetland systems, which have high ecological, social and cultural value. Their sponge-like soils, uniquely adapted vegetation, wet grasslands, lagoons and lakes capture and retain water, acting as a flood buffer in the rainy season, and a steady source of water in the dry season.

The Chingaza-Sumapaz-Guerrero Conservation Corridor, designed by a participatory process led by Conservation International (CI) Colombia and the Bogota Water Supply Company, protects and manages the páramos of Chingaza to provide multiple benefits.

A landscape-level program prioritizes some areas for conservation, others for restoration, and others for natural resource use, ensuring that the Corridor’s páramo wetland ecosystems can sustainably provide clean water for the 8 million residents of Bogotá farther downstream, habitat for endemic species, and land and irrigation for local communities well-being.

CI has also developed a forest carbon program, the first of its kind in Colombia under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism, to generate carbon credit financing that will support field activities and benefit local communities.

Source: Conservation International (2012)

Extracted from the TEEB for Water and Wetlands Report, section 4 on integrating the value of water and wetlands into decision-making.

Photo credits: Wikimedia Commons

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Knowledge Gaps undermine decision-making for water and wetlands

602944_10151728811798018_870673205_n

Geneva, 13 August 2013

Decision-making benefits from an improved evidence base with tools such as environmental accounting and monetary valuation. In practice, this will require specific data collection exercises for local decisions to reflect local conditions and the specific nature of the decision. However,  some elements might hinder the decision-making process and information is needed to overcome these gaps.

  • The water-related problems in place at the appropriate scale and the translation of these problems into ecosystem service based terminology;
  • The objectives for social and economic development (e.g. health protection) and how the ecosystem services contribute, or could contribute, to these;
  • The distributional aspects of ecosystem services: who benefits and who loses, and also how the ecosystem services are distributed across time and space.
  • The extent of the current stock of wetland resources and its role in water supply (flow of services) at the scale in question and relevant biophysical data to ensure insights on ecosystem functions that might not be visible from stock and flow indicators alone.

Finally, it is important to be aware of the inherent complexity of the processes, interactions, and uncertainties of environmental indicators and valuation exercises. It is often intrinsically impossible to encompass the full breadth of environmental consequences entailed by changes in the stock and flows of ecosystem services, since some of them are not yet fully understood in all their ramifications and potential mutual interactions. This requires that any assessment is transparent as to what it covers, what it does not cover, and the level of robustness of the results – including implications of the limits of coverage (TEEB, 2010, 2011). In any case, the results of any environmental assessment and valuation should always be treated with caution and complemented by different tools and perspectives.

Even though progress still needs to be made towards water and ecosystem accounting, there is already much information available that can inform policy actions aimed at the conservation, wise use, and restoration of water-related ecosystems and wetlands and the ecosystem services that they provide. In the future, a better body of information on ecosystem services with high relevance to the environmental challenges being considered and the concerned stakeholder groups involved is crucial in order to build indicators needed for evidence-based policy-making.

Source: (TEEB, 2010, 2011)

Extracted from the report: The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Water and Wetlands, section 3.6 Gaps and needs.

Photo credits: UNEP-TEEB

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Environmental accounting

Frog Grid Arendal pictures

Geneva, 2 August 2013

Many policy decisions aim to maximise policy objectives such as economic growth or employment generation and therefore are directly influenced by and evaluated against the indicators provided by national accounts such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP), economic growth rate and government deficit. Natural capital is often ignored, among other reasons because it is not included in national accounting, as defined by the System of National Accounts (SNA). Hence measuring natural capital, the ecosystem services that it provides, and the changes in its state is essential for nature to be taken into account in the decision-making processes. Natural capital and environmental-economic accounts can play a key role in systematically collecting information on the links between the economy and the environment.

One of the approaches to complementing economic accounts with environmental statistics is represented by the National Accounts Matrix including Environmental Accounts (NAMEA). NAMEA associates information on environmental impacts (in physical units) to standard economic accounts. It is organised in a matrix based on the input-output methodology developed by the economist Leontief.

The environmental data collected in NAMEA are pressure indicators, and include two environmental sets of data: one for environmental problems (i.e. the greenhouse effect) and another for pollutants. The environmental problems and pollutants to be included depend on the political priorities of each country. Water NAMEA is currently in use in many countries. It provides valuable information for water management (e.g. water use per added value of each sector), including not only direct use, but also all water use along the production chain. Another complementary approach is represented by the System of Environmental-Economic Accounts (SEEA). Launched in 1993 by the United Nations and the World Bank, SEEA provides an internationally agreed methodology for environmental accounting.

Moreover, more recent international engagements have been taken by countries. The most renown examples are the WAVES project and the Rio+20 commitments. WAVES stands for ‘’Global Partnership for Ecosystem Valuation and Wealth Accounting’’. The World Bank’s WAVES partnership, launched in 2010 at the CBD COP-10 in Nagoya, Japan, calls for countries to implement the SEEA where there are already agreed methodologies, as well as to contribute to the development of innovative accounting methodologies to take into account the natural capital. Besides, the Rio+20 Conference in June 2012 has been a milestone for biodiversity conservation. Fifty-seven countries and the European Commission supported a communiqué that called on governments, the UN system, international financial institutions and other international organizations to strengthen the implementation of natural capital accounting around the world and factor the value of natural assets like clean air, clean water, forests and other ecosystems into countries’ systems of national accounting.

Source: (UNCSD, 2012)

Extracted from the report: The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Water and Wetlands, section 3.5 Environmental accounting.

Photo credits: UNEP GRID Arendal

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The costs of inaction for wetland management

mangrove-forest-lamu-kenya_d1d9-2200x1477px

Geneva, 25 July 2013

Wetlands continue to face severe pressures, despite many benefits they provide to people and many conservation/restoration successes from recent efforts at local to national to global scales. In 2012, 127 governments reporting to the Ramsar Convention indicated that the overall status of their wetlands had deteriorated in recent years in 28% of countries but improved in only 19% (Ramsar Convention 2012).

Many water resource developments that have been undertaken to increase access to water have not given adequate consideration to harmful trade-offs with other services provided by wetland. Many conversions of wetlands have favoured provisioning services (notably food production) at the expense of losing or reducing delivery of regulating and supporting services from both those locations, and elsewhere downstream in river basins (MA, 2005b).

Given the often high values, and the diversity, of ecosystem services provided by intact wetland, and that a large proportion of these values are from water-related regulating services such as regulation of water flows, moderation of extreme events and water purification, the widespread and major losses of all types of inland and coastal wetlands have inevitably already led to a progressively increasing major loss of wetland ecosystem service value delivery to people. Permitting the remaining wetlands be converted or letting them degrade means further loss of their value to people.

Such costs of inaction (or actions to convert wetlands) can be very high. For example, coastal wetlands in the USA are estimated to currently provide US$23.2 billion per year in storm protection services alone. But large areas of such wetlands have already been lost, and further loss is continuing.

A loss of one hectare of such wetland is estimated to correspond to an average increase in storm damage from specific storms of US$33,000 (Constanza et al. 2008). The costs of just one recent summer flooding event in the UK, in 2007, are estimated at £3.2 billion (USD 5.2 billion) (Environment Agency 2010), with damage and costs occurring largely in areas of former river floodplain converted through urban, industrial and infrastructure developments. In case of degraded wetlands, the solution lies in the restoration of these ecosystems.

Source: Constanza et al. 2008; Environment Agency 2010; MA, 2005b; Ramsar Convention 2012

Extracted from the report: The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Water and Wetlands, section 2.3 Status and trends of water and wetlands.

Photo credits: UNEP GRID Arendal

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Property rights as instruments to protect wetlands and ensure ecosystem services

DSC_1243

Geneva, 17 July 2013

Institutional arrangements, such as property rights, make the links between wetland ecosystem services and human societies. These are often based on customary and traditional management practices linked to wetlands. The complexity of property rights has an influence on the way costs and benefits of ecosystem services are distributed and shared across societies and thereby have an important influence on the way priorities on ecosystem services are generated, managed and trade-offs negotiated.

Furthermore, lack of clearly defined property rights and the degree of fit with ecosystem structure and processes that underpin ecosystem services can accentuate wetland degradation and loss through conflicts, non-cooperative behaviour, and inefficient management.

Mapping stakeholders and institutions with ecosystem services and revealing stakeholder differentiated benefit and cost sharing provides the analytical framework for assessing social fairness dimensions, particularly ecosystem services trade-offs. Clarifying rights, in particular collective rights to common property, enables building broad-based stakeholder engagement in wetland management and sustained provision of ecosystem services.

For example the Chilika lagoon in India provides a livelihood for 200,000 local fishers and generates over 9% of the state’s foreign revenue from marine products. For generations, Chilika fishers evolved a management system based on resource partitioning where access to each fisher group  was determined based on the species they specialised in catching.

However, from 1984-85 prawn culture was introduced in Chilika to provide low-income families with a supplementary income but this action only triggered social conflict and a heavy degradation of the ecosystem. Therefore the Government of Odisha established The Chilika Development Authority (CDA) in 1992 to improve fishermen’s livelihood through restoration activities, including restoring the lagoon-sea.

This measure allowed the restoration of hydrological regime and led to a remarkable recovery of ecosystem with a near seven fold increase in fish landings and the registration of 56 new species of fish and shell fish. A regulatory regime for fisheries is also being introduced and will set exemplary punishment and disincentives for any form of fishing detrimental to the ecosystem. Finally, the bases of community managed fisheries are being established in Chilika, and all these interventions are increasingly improving both fishermen’s livelihood and ecosystems’ health.

Source: Kumar et al., 2011

Extracted from the report: The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Water and Wetlands, section 4.5 Property rights and improving the distribution of costs and benefits.

Photo credits: UNEP TEEB

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Transition management requires trade-offs and compensation measures

DSC_1235

Geneva, 10 July 2013

Some types of wetlands have a negative image in the eye of the general public. For example, swamps, marshes and bogs are often seen as insalubrious places, which favour the spread of diseases like malaria. Furthermore, protection and restoration of wetlands can not only bring (direct or indirect) economic benefits to many people, but they can simultaneously negatively impact other stakeholders (e.g. restoring coastal mangroves for storm protection can impact the livelihood of shrimp farmers).

In many cases a trade-off is found between the conservation or improvement of supporting and regulating ecosystem services (e.g. flood protection, sediment transport and water purification) and the delivery of provisioning ecosystem services (e.g. agricultural products and timber). The resulting loss in employment opportunities may cause local populations to oppose sustainable wetland management.

Reducing the magnitude of the negative impact of wetland restoration can only be achieved by taking into account the bundle of ecosystem services that are affected by the measures instead of looking at the effects on services individually. To this aim, disseminating knowledge on the benefits that wetlands provide to local communities can help counterbalance the negative vision on wetlands some stakeholders may have.

Ensuring an equitable sharing of the benefits may imply compensating those whose benefits are eroded as a consequence of the enhancement of other ecosystem services. For a successful transition, it is important that the needs of all relevant stakeholders are addressed (and especially the most vulnerable ones).

An example of a successful transition instrument is the use of water funds in the Andean region. This region encounters three main problems: natural ecosystems are threatened by conversion to crop and ranch land; 2) ranchers and farmers depend on the land for their livelihoods; and 3) growing population and demand for water.

Preventing access to the natural ecosystems would harm the farmers’ livelihoods. However, allowing continued conversion increases the likelihood of ecosystem degradation and threatens access to water services for communities. Water funds aim at solving this conflict by establishing long-term financial mechanisms that involve a public-private partnership of water users who determine how to invest financial resources in activities for maintaining or enhancing water services in priority areas while providing additional benefits to local communities living upstream in the watershed.

Sources: Calvache et al. (2012); Goldman et al. (2010a); Goldman et al. (2010b)

Extracted from the report: The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Water and Wetlands, section 5.6 Transition management

Photo credits: UNEP-TEEB

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Taxes, fees and subsidies should encourage protection of wetlands

mangroves-and-shorebirds-in-the-lamu-area-indian-ocean-coast-of-kenya_1d20-800x537px

Geneva, 4 July 2013

Taxes, fees and charges are one way to discourage environmentally harmful activities by increasing their costs compared to other more environmentally friendly alternatives. Theoretically, environmental taxes are more efficient than regulation because they continuously foster economic agents to reduce their environmental impact instead of binding them to a fixed standard. Subsidies reduce the costs related to sustainable activities or product that would not be affordable to citizens otherwise and as a result, increase their market competitiveness.

However, some of these economic policies can have counterproductive effects.

Italy and Spain face dry climate which means those countries are confronted with water scarcity for crops irrigation. However, this trend tends to be exacerbated by wrongful economic incentives. Indeed, European and national subsidies do not reflect real water costs. The total subsidies cost for agriculture irrigation in the Spanish river basins amount to € 911 million per year.

Therefore, this irrigation subsidy often encourages farmers to choose water-intensive crops and make an excessive water usage. This example shows that policy-makers should carefully consider the environmental effects of a market-based instrument before implementing it.

Sources: Massarutto (2003); Calatrava and Garrido (2010); Arcadis et al. (2012); OECD (2010)

Extracted from the report: The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Water and Wetlands, section 4.6 Using market-based instruments to protect water and wetland ecosystem services.

Photo credits: UNEP GRID Arendal

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 The value of Coral Reefs

Coral reefs

Geneva, 21 June 2013

Coral reefs are one of the ecosystems with the highest level of biodiversity and even though they cover only 0.2% of the world’s oceans, they contain about 25% of marine species.

They provide habitat to a wide range of fish and invertebrate species, sustaining the livelihood of millions of people. It is estimated that a well-managed reef in the Indian and Pacific Oceans can provide between 5 and 15 tons of seafood per square kilometre per year. In addition, coral reefs provide a wide range of ecosystem services: they represent a major tourist attraction, protect shores and islands from surges and storms, and provide habitat for many reef-dwelling species that can potentially be used for pharmaceuticals.

Sources: Cesar et al. (2003); World Meteorological Organization (2010); UNEP-WCMC (2001); WRI (2012)

Extracted from the report: The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Water and Wetlands, section 2.2 on the values of water and wetlands.

The report presents insights on critical water-related ecosystem services and the wider ecosystem services from wetlands, in order to encourage additional policy momentum, business commitment, and investment in the conservation, restoration, and wise use of wetlands.

Photo credits: UNEP GRID Arendal

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Monetary valuation as one approach to demonstrate the value of wetlands

SanghaRiver CAF_Peter Prokosh

Geneva, 13 June 2013

Different approaches and tools can help assess the benefits that flow from water and wetlands by providing different and complimentary information to demonstrate their value. Examples of these approaches and measures include qualitative, quantitative, spatial and monetary.

Monetary valuation can significantly help demonstrate the importance of wetlands to society and the economy, and thereby help argue for their protection, wise use and restoration. However, a single methodology cannot reflect all values embedded in water-related ecosystem services and wetlands, and therefore it is important to use a combination of different approaches monetary and non-monetary to demonstrate value.

Monetary valuation can translate part of the information obtained through qualitative and quantitative indicators into monetary figures. For example, the wastewater purification service provided by healthy wetlands can be valued in monetary terms through the equivalent cost of a wastewater treatment plant that would provide a similar service.

Additionally, the revenues generated from tourism can give an indication of the importance of the cultural ecosystem services provided by wetlands. Some ecosystem services have a direct economic value that can be readily monetised, such as the local economic value of fish catches.

Monetary valuation can give an indication of the society’s preferences that is easily understandable and communicable. It can help make explicit preferences that are normally hidden and not reflected in market prices for example the preference for clean water.

In many cases, provisioning ecosystem services such as food or timber are more visible and are favoured in the policy-making process, because they have a market price. But there are many other ecosystem services that are less visible and often overlooked or underrepresented in the policy-making processes.

The calculation of the economic value of traditionally less well covered provisioning services such as the value of some genetic materials or of water provision from wetlands and non-provisioning ecosystem services such as water purification, waste water treatment, and erosion control contribute to the arguments for their conservation, wise use and restoration.

The outcomes of any valuation process depends on what the various stakeholders value, whose values count, who benefits, and the manner in which social and ecological systems interlinkages are accounted for. Values and the process of valuation reflect socially and culturally constructed realities linked to worldviews, mind-sets and belief systems shaped by social interactions ,as well as political and power relations operating within a realm of local, regional and global interdependencies.

Extracted from the report: The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Water and Wetlands, section 3.4 Monetary valuation

The report presents insights on critical water-related ecosystem services and the wider ecosystem services from wetlands, in order to encourage additional policy momentum, business commitment, and investment in the conservation, restoration, and wise use of wetlands.

Photo credits: UNEP GRID Arendal

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Indicators improve wetlands management and governance

Researcher in a salt marsh sampling soil

Geneva, 7 June 2013

Good water and wetland management requires information on the stock of natural capital, on the flow of ecosystem services it provides and on how these are changing.

Indicators play an important role in informing public policies regarding water and wetlands. They report on the overall status, trends of ecosystems, help to identify the most urgent environmental problems to address and set the policy priorities. In addition, indicators are essential and useful for target setting and evaluating policy decisions.

Numerous environmental agencies and statistical bodies have developed a set of indicators for environment/biodiversity to monitor progress towards sustainable development targets.

The Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) for example has information on a set of indicators to measure the state of water-related ecosystems, and the ecosystem services they provide in the context of the implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and its Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

Potential indicators for water availability/water security could include:

  • Water scarcity (or presented as “Proportion of total water resources
  • Water use intensity by economic activity
  • Human and economic losses due to water-related natural disasters
  • Land affected by desertification
  • Climate moisture index

Extracted from the report: The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Water and Wetlands, section 3.2 highlighting indicators for improving measurement and assessment for better governance.

The report presents insights on critical water-related ecosystem services and the wider ecosystem services from wetlands, in order to encourage additional policy momentum, business commitment, and investment in the conservation, restoration, and wise use of wetlands.

Photo credits: UNEP-TEEB

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Restoring wetlands also means improving livelihoods

Rice paddies_ Bali_646x231_scaled_cropp

Geneva, 31 May 2013

Improving and restoring wetlands can be a cost-effective way of meeting a range of policy, business, and private objectives. This includes not only water security, but also food and energy security, since water plays a key role in agriculture and energy production.

The Volta River Basin’s area, 400,000 km, is one example of where ecosystem restoration led to livelihood improvements. The Basin includes six countries, but 85% is located in Burkina Faso and Ghana. During the past decades, extensive exploitation of natural resources in the area, due to population increase and poverty, led to water scarcity, land degradation and siltation of river channels.

In order to simultaneously address environmental and poverty issues in the basin, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Water and Nature Initiative (WANI), launched the project “Improving Water Governance in the Volta River Basin”, in partnership with national partners. The project consisted of the establishment of:

  • Participatory and multi-scale governance frameworks that included local, national, transboundary and regional representatives, for joint management of water resources;
  • Livelihood pilot projects such as the rehabilitation of a small dam, digging of 3 wells, plantation of 27,000 tree seedlings and 6,500 fruit seedlings, provision of 19 water pumps and more than 40 sheep or goats;
  • Collection of data to inform decision-making, including socio-economic surveys and a water audit. The project included awareness raising activities and financial, management and technical training targeted to local population.

The pilot projects showed the positive impact on poverty alleviation of integrated water resource management, and set the basis for further improvements. In addition, the awareness raising and training activities helped local communities to improve their farming techniques.

Source: Welling et al. (2012)

Extracted from the report: The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Water and Wetlands, section 5.5 highlighting synergies between wetland restoration/conservation and poverty alleviation.

The report presents insights on critical water-related ecosystem services and the wider ecosystem services from wetlands, in order to encourage additional policy momentum, business commitment, and investment in the conservation, restoration, and wise use of wetlands.

Photo credits : UNEP-TEEB

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Regulatory frameworks to help protect wetlands

Water and Wetlands

Geneva, 24 May 2013

Understanding the value of water and wetland ecosystem services is only the first step. In order to use this understanding to help promote their services and thereby protect wetlands requires integrating these values into decision-making.

In order to translate an assessment of the value of water and wetland ecosystem services into improved decision-making, there has to be an effective governance framework in place. Effective and efficient regulation of activities that impact water and wetlands is, therefore, necessary to halt losses, stimulate restoration, and maintain the integrity of ecosystems and the ecosystem services they provide to people.

This not only includes the basic legal and institutional frameworks for regulatory action, but also a situation where there is respect for the rule of law (i.e. laws are implemented). Corruption can be a major impediment which cannot be overcome simply by improving the evidence base for water ecosystem services through better valuation of the benefits nature provides. This is particularly true for water where built infrastructure involves large capital and operational investment and high opportunities for corruption.

There are three main types of environmental regulatory approaches (TEEB, 2011):

  1. Regulation of water discharges that sets standards for emissions, ambient quality and technical practice (e.g. best available techniques), performance (e.g. water quality objectives) or management (e.g. agricultural activities) practices; water quantity regulation (e.g. limits on abstraction);
  2. Regulation of products, which sets restrictions on product use (e.g. activities damaging endangered species) or production standards (e.g. certification, best practice codes);
  3. Spatial planning, which regulates land uses and establishes protected areas (e.g. spatial planning frameworks such as Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM), Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) and Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP).

Examples of regulation and spatial planning to improve water and wetland management include the control of pollution from waste water treatment plants to protect the quality of surface water for other users, the designation of areas protecting drinking water sources from nitrate contamination, and the design of non-conversion zones in order to safeguard mangroves that provide important benefits or the establishment of protected areas.

Extracted from the report: The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Water and Wetlands, section 4 highlighting how to  Integrate the value of water and wetlands into decison-making.

The report presents insights on critical water-related ecosystem services and the wider ecosystem services from wetlands, in order to encourage additional policy momentum, business commitment, and investment in the conservation, restoration, and wise use of wetlands.

Photo credits: UNEP-TEEB

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The intimate relationship between water and wetlands

pechora-delta-reserve-russia_ad41-800x508px

Geneva, 17 May 2013

Water is fundamental for the functioning of our society. We use it for drinking, irrigation, food production, sanitation, energy use, forestry, tourism etc. The availability of water in the appropriate quantity, quality and at the appropriate time, is fundamental for sustainable development. Water moves around the earth making its way through a path called the water cycle or the hydrological cycle. Wetlands are crucial to maintaining this cycle, which underpins how society can access water. The water cycle is also influenced by physical factors such as topography, geology, and ecological factors, such as transpiration from plants and the effects of land cover on water flows.

Wetlands are an important part of this cycle, and provide vital water related ecosystem services such as clean water provision, waste water treatment and ground water replenishment. Wetlands usually, but not always, receive water from the landscape and deliver it generally through rivers, to the coast and onwards into the sea. There are exceptions where some wetlands deliver water back into the landscape, through groundwater and soil moisture recharge, while other inland wetlands can be the final destination of water.

Extracted from the report: The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Water and Wetlands, section 2 highlighting the importance of water and wetlands

The report presents insights on critical water-related ecosystem services and the wider ecosystem services from wetlands, in order to encourage additional policy momentum, business commitment, and investment in the conservation, restoration, and wise use of wetlands.

Photo credits: UNEP GRID Arendal

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Sustainable tourism a win-win for nature conservation and the economy

Flamingos Lake Nakuru

Geneva, 10 May 2013

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) defines sustainable tourism as optimal use of environmental resources that constitute a key element in tourism development, maintaining essential ecological processes and helping to conserve natural heritage and biodiversity. Key elements to achieve sustainable tourism include appropriate planning, regulating and monitoring of tourist activities, as well as the involvement of local communities, for example through training activities and providing access to credit schemes, so they can set up small tourism businesses. The Ibera Marches in Argentina and Lake Nakuru in Kenya, are two examples that illustrate how practicing sustainable tourism has delivered a two-fold benefit for nature conservation and economic development.

In the Ibera Marshes in Argentina, conservation-based tourism activities have revived the economy of Colonia Carlos Pellegrini, near the Ramsar Site “Lagunas y Esteros del Iberá”, by creating new jobs, and allowing local inhabitants stay employed in the town rather than migrate to cities to look for work. Around 90% of the population now works in the tourism sector. In order to favour local employment, the site managers provide local rangers and guides with training on working as tourist guides and local communities receive support to establish municipal nature trails.

Lake Nakuru in Kenya every year receives around 149,500 international and 95,500 domestic visitors, who are charged an entrance fee of US$ 80 and US$ 11 respectively. The income generated from the entrance fees and concession fees from the lodges, contribute to paying the costs of the park management. Overall, around 70% of Kenya’s international tourism is targeted to the country’s wildlife, and therefore biodiversity conservation is not only an environmental objective, but it is also crucial for the country’s economy. Awareness about the importance of nature is promoted each year  through a large-scale environmental education programme, involving about 100,000 school students, and by using inexpensive wildlife viewing tours, that the National Park runs for residents.

Case example sources: Ramsar and UNWTO (2012)

Extracted from the report: The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Water and Wetlands, section 5.4 highlighting sustainable tourism.

The report presents insights on critical water-related ecosystem services and the wider ecosystem services from wetlands, in order to encourage additional policy momentum, business commitment, and investment in the conservation, restoration, and wise use of wetlands.

Photo credits: UNEP GRID Arendal

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Peatlands naturally mitigate climate change

Cape-flora-franz-josef

Geneva, 03 May 2013

Peatlands cover only 3% of the global land area, and yet they contain approximately 30% of all the carbon on land, equivalent to 75% of all atmospheric carbon, and twice the carbon stock in the global forest biomass. They represent the most important carbon storage on land, and the second most important one on earth next to the oceans. The carbon in peat has accumulated over thousands of years, thanks to permanent water logging which has restricted aerobic decay.

The peatland equilibrium between production and decay is however delicate and can easily be disturbed by human activities such as drainage for agriculture or forestry, which can transform peatlands from a carbon sink to a carbon source.

CO2 emissions from peatland drainage, fires and exploitation are approximately 3 billion tonnes per year, which equates to more than 10% of the global fossil fuel emissions.

For this reason, restoration and conservation of peatlands represent a key strategy for climate change mitigation, along with the protection of other peatland ecosystem services.

Sources: Parish et al. (2008); FAO (2012b)

Extracted from the report: The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Water and Wetlands, section 2.4 highlighting the cost effectiveness of natural infrastructure.

The report presents insights on critical water-related ecosystem services and the wider ecosystem services from wetlands, in order to encourage additional policy momentum, business commitment, and investment in the conservation, restoration, and wise use of wetlands.

Photo credits: UNEP GRID Arendal

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

How to handle the trade-offs linked to wetland protection and restoration

mangrove-forest-lamu-kenya_d1d9-2200x1477px_646x231_scaled_cropp

Geneva, 26 April 2013

Some types of wetlands are viewed negatively by the general public. For example, swamps, marshes and bogs, are often seen as insalubrious places, which favour the spread of diseases such as malaria. Furthermore, even though the protection and restoration of wetlands produces economic benefits, it can simultaneously give rise to negative impacts. For example restoring coastal mangroves for storm protection can impact the livelihood of shrimp farmers. The resulting loss in employment opportunities may cause local populations to oppose sustainable wetland management.

Reducing the magnitude of the negative impacts of wetland restoration can only be achieved by taking into account the bundle of ecosystem services that are affected by the restoration measures, instead of looking at the effects on services individually.

As transitions almost always involve trade-offs, it is key to reduce the extent of the trade-offs by looking at the sum of the effects on the different ecosystem services, and to do this on a larger spatial scale. Coupling spatial planning and trade-off analysis improves functional understanding of ecosystem service trade-offs, determines the overall impact of land use shifts on ecosystem service supply, and can determine the most cost-beneficial land use transitions.

For this reason it is important to carefully manage the transition process towards improved protection of water-related ecosystem services and wetlands, not only from an ethical point of view, but also if a wide acceptance of the needed reforms is to happen.  Action such as disseminating knowledge on the benefits that wetlands provide to local communities can help counter-balance the negative vision some stakeholders may have.

In addition it helps build a balanced view on the trade-offs involved with wetland management, thereby increasing acceptance and participation in the required transition policies and actions. Ensuring an equitable sharing of the benefits may imply compensating those whose benefits are eroded as a consequence of the enhancement of other ecosystem services.

For a successful transition, it is important that the needs of all relevant stakeholders are addressed and especially the most vulnerable ones.

Extracted from the report: The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Water and Wetlands, section 5.6 on Transition Management.

The report presents insights on critical water-related ecosystem services and the wider ecosystem services from wetlands, in order to encourage additional policy momentum, business commitment, and investment in the conservation, restoration, and wise use of wetlands.

Photo credits: UNEP GRID Arendal

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Traditional knowledge vital for wise use and conservation of wetlands

grazing cows, front view_24228883

Geneva, 19 April 2013

Traditional practices and local knowledge play an important role in the wise use of wetlands and should therefore be taken into account for wetland conservation and management. Recognizing and strengthening the role of local communities, when it comes to the management of wetlands and wetland ecosystem services, can contribute to wetlands conservation, especially if a wide range of stakeholders are involved.

This is primarily because in many cases traditionally evolved techniques of ecosystem management are better tailored to local conditions, than externalized management approaches. Plus involving local communities is a key factor for successful policy change and its acceptance.

The micro and macro Prespa Lakes, shared by Greece, Albania and the Republic of Macedonia, are among the oldest lakes in Europe, and are an example of how the traditional activities were linked to the conservation of wet meadows.

The Prespa lakes are very rich in biodiversity and are host to many endemic species.  Until the 1980s, cattle grazing helped to maintain the diverse and short vegetation of the wet meadows, and enabled the presence of rare bird species such as pelicans and the then rare cormorants.

Additionally buffalo grazing along the lakes controlled the spread of reed beds, and this permitted the wet meadows to flourish. Wet meadows play an important role in the ecosystems of the lakes because they are used as spawning grounds by some fish species, are feeding and nesting areas for water birds, and are habitat to a large number of invertebrate, amphibians, reptiles and mammals.

Case study Source: Papayannis and Pritchard (2011)

Extracted from the report: The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Water and Wetlands, section 5.3 on Traditional Practices and Local Knowledge

The report presents insights on critical water-related ecosystem services and the wider ecosystem services from wetlands, in order to encourage additional policy momentum, business commitment, and investment in the conservation, restoration, and wise use of wetlands.

Photo credits: UNEP-TEEB

_________________________________________________________________________________________

The costs and benefits of wetland restoration: Peatland restoration in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania Germany

Peatlands image

Geneva, 12 April 2013

In the Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania state (MV), in north-Eastern Germany, 97% of the 300,000 ha of peatland was drained to allow for agricultural production. As a consequence the carbon stored in the peat was degraded, leading to increased carbon emissions.  However in the last two decades, cattle rearing has been declining, and with it the need for grazing and fodder production areas, hence reducing the agricultural opportunity costs.

In addition, an increased need for water storage was foreseen in view of the future effects of climate change in the area. Therefore because of all the reasons cited above, including the high costs resulting from maintaining drainage infrastructure and equipment, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Environment and Consumer protection (MLUV) of the Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania state (MV), in 2000 drafted a peatland restoration strategy, which was  financed by the state and the European Union.

Between 2000 and 2008, an area of 29,764 ha (equivalent to about 10% of the area of drained peatlands in MV) was restored and emissions equivalent to 300,000 tCO2– are avoided every year (with an average of 10.4 tCO2-equivalents per hectare). When assuming a marginal cost of damage caused by carbon emissions of 70€ per tCO2 (Federal Environment Agency, 2007), the effort to restore peatlands avoids damage from carbon emissions of up to €21.7 million every year, on average €728 per hectare of restored peatlands.

The restoration of this peatland has generated additional benefits for biodiversity such as providing habitat for native animal and plant species such as sea-eagles and ospreys, which can be observed all year round, while hundreds of migrating cranes use the sites as a stopover on their north-south migration. Concurrently the attractiveness of the region as a destination for nature tourism has also increased.

Sources: Förster (2010); MLUV MV (2009); Schäfer (2009)

Extracted from the report: The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Water and Wetlands, section 5 on Transforming the Management Approach to Water and Wetlands.

The report presents insights on critical water-related ecosystem services and the wider ecosystem services from wetlands, in order to encourage additional policy momentum, business commitment, and investment in the conservation, restoration, and wise use of wetlands.

Photo credits: UNEP GRID Arendal

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Four Approaches that help demonstrate the value of water and wetlands

Mangroves

Geneva, 5 April 2013

Historically there has been a lack of understanding about the multiple values of water and wetlands. The values of these ecosystems have seldom been adequately acknowledged or taken into account in the policy making and private decision making processes. This has been a contributing factor to the continuous loss and degradation of water-related ecosystems and wetlands that we are experiencing. Improving awareness on the importance and values of nature is crucial for better governance and supports conservation, wise use and restoration of wetlands, while helping achieve development objectives.

Different approaches and tools qualitative, quantitative, spatial and monetary can help decision- makers assess and demonstrate the values of water and wetlands, thus enabling them to account for these values in the decision-making process. Given their relevance to demonstrating value, each of the elements is presented below.

1)      Qualitative analysis is based on non-numerical information, which describes values and benefits that are not easily translated into quantitative information (e.g. landscape beauty, impacts on security and wellbeing, cultural and spiritual values). For instance, determining which wetlands have particular cultural values to which communities is in itself an important means of communicating value.

2)      Quantitative data is used to represent the state of, and the changes in, the ecosystems and the services they provide using numerical units of measurement (e.g. groundwater availability in a watershed in cubic metres; nitrogen and phosphorus in a water body in micrograms per litre; carbon annually sequestered in peatlands in tonnes per hectare per year; number of people who benefit from access to clean water from wetlands). The value of ecosystems can be demonstrated using physical stock and flow indicators as well as social indicators (e.g. proportion of households benefitting from access to clean water).

3)      Geospatial mapping allows the quantitative data to be linked with geographical information (e.g. which community benefits from clean water provision from a given wetland). It can also be the basis of modelling the outcomes of alternative land and water management decisions on specific wetland sites. This can be integrated into local accounting and decision making tools.

4)      Monetary valuation can build on biophysical information on the services provided by ecosystems to derive values (e.g. carbon storage in wetland sea grass systems of tCO2/ha can be converted to stock and sequestration values by multiplying it by the carbon price in the international markets). It can be of help to inform a specific decision, management tool or policy instrument, e.g. the strategies of using wetlands for carbon sequestration, ecosystem based adaptation to climate change, flood mitigation or the establishment of a water fund (see section 3.5).

Extracted from the report: The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Water and Wetlands, section 3 Improving Measurement and Assessment for Better Governance

The report presents insights on critical water-related ecosystem services and the wider ecosystem services from wetlands, in order to encourage additional policy momentum, business commitment, and investment in the conservation, restoration, and wise use of wetlands.

Photo credits: UNEP GRID Arendal

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Comparing the cost benefits of wetland natural infrastructure with engineered approaches

saemangeum-seawall-build-on-cost-of-international-important-tidal-flats-south-korea_ea16-2200x1461px

Geneva, 28 March 2013

Wetlands work as natural infrastructure delivering a range of ecosystem services, such as flood protection, waste management and water purification. This natural infrastructure in some cases is a substitute, or compliments man-made infrastructures. The wise use of wetlands, including their conservation, paired with the restoration of hydrological functions is essential to maintaining this natural infrastructure. In addition this natural infrastructure in may provide services at a lower cost compared to engineered approaches, and therefore helps meet a wide range of policy objectives.

For example, the benefits derived from the mangroves forests in Southern Thailand were estimated as, US$10,821/ha for coastal protection against storms, US$987/ha for fish nurseries and US$584/ha for collected wood and non-timber forest products.

According to this estimate, the main economic argument in support of mangrove conservation relates to their role providing natural infrastructure against storm protection.

In contrast, the benefits derived from commercial shrimp farming were estimated at US$ 9,632/ha, with government subsidies contributing the equivalent of US$8,412/h. Meaning that shrimp production without subsidies creates benefits of only US$1,120/ha.

Furthermore while the natural benefits from mangroves are provided continuously, shrimp production declines after five years and oftentimes shrimp farms abandoned once they turn unproductive. In contrast the costs of restoring mangroves are US$9,318/ha, beyond the private profits from shrimp and have to be borne by the public.

Source: Turpie (2010)

Extracted from the report: The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Water and Wetlands, section 2.2 on the Values of Water and Wetlands

The report presents insights on critical water-related ecosystem services and the wider ecosystem services from wetlands, in order to encourage additional policy momentum, business commitment, and investment in the conservation, restoration, and wise use of wetlands.

Photo credits: UNEP GRID Arendal

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The wise use of water is fundamental to life

Untitled_Panorama1

Geneva, 22 March 2013

22 March 2013 is World Water Day and 2013 has been declared the United Nations International Year for Water Cooperation by the United Nations General Assembly. Water is essential for the survival of life, and yet many people still lack access to this valuable resource, many of them living in sub-Saharan Africa.

To celebrate this day, we take a moment to reflect on the value of water and why its wise use and management is essential.

Water is valuable for drinking, irrigation, food production, sanitation, energy use, forestry, tourism, housing etc. Indeed so fundamental is water for our society that it underpins most of our activities and determines our economic prosperity.

All sectors of the economy depend on water directly and/or indirectly. The agricultural sector depends on water for crop and livestock production, the energy sector for hydropower and for cooling of thermoelectric power plants, the tourism sector for the natural beauty provided by rivers, lakes and the sea.

The lack of water can have significant effects on health, livelihoods, the economy, and on the operations and efficiency of industry across most sectors. In the Rio+20 final declarations “The future we want” world governments recognized that water is a fundamental human right and underlined its core role in sustainable development.

Wherever water is scarce, water security concerns can arise between users or between regions such as in trans-boundary contexts. In addition water pollution can diminish the value of water in a similar way to scarcity by making the water unusable.

Over-abundance of water can be equally problematic as witnessed when flooding occurs and lives, property and economy are lost. For all these reasons, the wise use of water and management of the resource and its sources is of critical importance.

Extracted from the report: The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Water and Wetlands, section 2.2 on the Values of Water and Wetlands

The report presents insights on critical water-related ecosystem services and the wider ecosystem services from wetlands, in order to encourage additional policy momentum, business commitment, and investment in the conservation, restoration, and wise use of wetlands.

Photo credits: UNEP-TEEB

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Using market-based instruments to protect water and wetlands

dreamstime_8289329

Geneva, 15 March 2013

The behavior of companies, nations and citizens is strongly influenced by the prices they pay for goods and services. However, the prices of goods and services often do not take into account the value lost when ecosystem services are degraded. This can sometimes be attributed to the limited understanding of the value of ecosystem services, and how to integrate these values into the decision-making process.

By introducing Market-Based Instruments (MBIs) such as taxes, fees, subsidies, trade-able permit schemes and Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES), decision-makers can encourage the efficient use of resources, foster environmental protection, and consequently influence the behavior of citizens and companies.

Taxes, fees and charges can for example discourage environmentally harmful activities by increasing their costs in comparison to other more environmentally friendly alternatives. In parallel subsidies when introduced reduce the costs of sustainable activities or products, thereby increasing their market competitiveness.

In theory environmental taxes are more efficient than regulation when it comes to environmental protection, because they demand that agents with lower abatement costs pollute and pay less, than those with higher costs. This leads high abatement companies to seek approaches that reduce environment impacts in order to reduce taxes, and society as a whole benefits.

Extracted from the report: The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Water and Wetlands, section 4.6, Using market-based instruments to protect water and wetland ecosystem services..

The report presents insights on critical water-related ecosystem services and the wider ecosystem services from wetlands, in order to encourage additional policy momentum, business commitment, and investment in the conservation, restoration, and wise use of wetlands.

Photo credits: UNEP-TEEB

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Evidence based decision-making improves governance of wetlands

Nick Pic

Geneva, 8 March 2013

The increasing appreciation of ecological processes, functions and services, as well as of the interaction between nature and the economy, is contributing to improved governance of water and wetlands.

Decision-makers require data, and rely on the information it conveys as evidence of the actual conditions. When it comes to decision-making for the wise management of water and wetlands, granted that context and policy requirements are primal, the following information is fundamental for evidence-based decision-making:

  • Information on the location and extent of water and wetland resources;
  • A description of the water-related problems, the appropriate scale and the translation of these problems into ecosystem service based terminology;
  • Awareness of the social and economic development objectives (e.g. health protection) and how the ecosystem services contribute, or could contribute, to these;
  • Knowledge of the distributional aspects of ecosystem services: who benefits and who loses, and also how the ecosystem services are distributed across time and space.
  • Data on the extent of the current stock of wetland resources and its role in water supply (flow of services) at the scale in question and relevant biophysical data to ensure insights on ecosystem functions that might not be visible from stock and flow indicators alone;
  • Data on the extent of previous wetlands, or existing degraded wetlands, which might be restored in order to provide ecosystem services to manage the problem in question;
  • An overview of the full range of relevant ecosystem services that water and wetlands provide, and a more detailed analysis of ecosystem services that are of highest relevance to stakeholders (and their economic values if and where this is appropriate). Such a tiered approach in information can help ensure both that a sufficiently complete picture of ecosystem services is created, while directing sufficient resources and capacity to the ecosystem services of particular relevance for the decision at hand;
  • An analysis of the economic value of ecosystem services to inform decision making, economic instruments and policies;
  • Information on how the water and wetlands, and the ecosystem services they provide are changing and how they can be managed to address both biodiversity objectives and development objectives given the range of ecosystem service flows.

Extracted from the report: The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Water and Wetlands, section 3 on Improving measurement and assessment for better governance.

The report presents insights on critical water-related ecosystem services and the wider ecosystem services from wetlands, in order to encourage additional policy momentum, business commitment, and investment in the conservation, restoration, and wise use of wetlands.

Photo credits: UNEP-TEEB

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The dilemma of development versus conservation

Coastal wetland restoration area south of seamangeum south korea

Geneva 1 March 2013

The Mhlathuze municipality located in South Africa is a biodiversity hotspot, where the high poverty rates in the area led to a classic example of the ‘development’ versus ‘conservation’ dilemma. The rapidly industrializing Municipality was in favor of development in order to increase the employment opportunities for the local communities.

The Municipality undertook a strategic catchment assessment to assess the value of the ‘free’ ecosystem services provided by the area, some of which include, nutrient cycling, waste management, water supply, water regulation, flood and drought management. The annual value of these ecosystem services was estimated at R1.7 billion (nearly US$200 million). The reaction from politicians was positive once they realized the economic value of these ecosystem services and the Municipality embarked on a process to identify: (1) sensitive ecosystems, (2) linkages between ecosystems, and (3) zones that could be developed without impacting the area’s ability to continue providing these ecosystem services.

More importantly the Municipality identified management actions that would ensure not only the survival of key biodiversity assets, but also promote sustainable development opportunities that protected the areas ‘s biodiversity resources.

Source: TEEB (2012b) and Van der Wateren et al. (2004)

Extracted from the report: The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Water and Wetlands, section 4 on integrating the value of water and wetlands into decision-making.

The report presents insights on critical water-related ecosystem services and the wider ecosystem services from wetlands, in order to encourage additional policy momentum, business commitment, and investment in the conservation, restoration, and wise use of wetlands.

Photo credits: UNEP GRID Arendal

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Trends in wetland-dependent species indicate more decline but show some improvements

UT121116HK0074

Geneva, 21 February 2013

Unsurprisingly, trends in the status of wetland-dependent species follow the overall patterns of continuing wetland loss. The Living Planet Index (LPI) for freshwater species and populations indicates a decline of 37%, in a space of 38 years from 1970-2008, a larger decline than any other biome. For tropical regions there has been an even greater decline of 70%, in contrast to an increase of 35% in the freshwater temperate index (WWF 2012).

The marine LPI which includes many coastal species has also declined by 22% over the same period. Regionally, the decline in the overall LPI has been greatest in the Indo-Pacific biogeographic realm (64%).

For waterbirds according to Wetlands International 2010, whilst the global status of biogeographic populations improved between 1976-2005, more populations remain in decline (38%) than are increasing (20%). Overall the LPI indicates that the global trend masks major differences in status across regional, flyways and taxa. Whilst the status of waterbird populations in Europe and North America has been improving since the mid-1970s, for South America, Africa, and long-distance migrants worldwide, the trends show a declining status. Specifically the status of waterbird populations in the Asia-Pacific region continues to be particularly bad.

Extracted from the report: The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Water and Wetlands, section 2.3 highlighting the status and trends in wetland dependent species.

The report presents insights on critical water-related ecosystem services and the wider ecosystem services from wetlands, in order to encourage additional policy momentum, business commitment, and investment in the conservation, restoration, and wise use of wetlands.

 Photo credits: UNEP GRID Arendal

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Wetlands take care of water

Water _001141038889_946x318_scaled_cropp

Geneva, 14 February 2013

The movement of water on, below or above the earth takes place through what is known as the water cycle or hydrological cycle. The water cycle influences how water gets distributed around the earth, its quality and the quantities available. Wetlands are an important part of this cycle, and they play a crucial role in maintaining this cycle. They provide natural infrastructure that delivers water through rivers to the coast and onwards to the sea, store ground water for future use and purify water, so it’s portable for consumption.

Extracted from the report: The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Water and Wetlands, section 2.1 highlighting the water cycle and wetlands.

The report presents insights on critical water-related ecosystem services and the wider ecosystem services from wetlands, in order to encourage additional policy momentum, business commitment, and investment in the conservation, restoration, and wise use of wetlands.

Photo credits: UNEP-TEEB

Latest Publications

TEEBAgriFood Interim Report

The Interim Report introduces the key questions, issues and arguments to be addressed by TEEBAgriFood.

Read more

Towards TEEBAgriFood

TEEB is bringing together economists, business leaders, agriculturalists and experts in biodiversity and ecosystem services to systematically review the economic interdependencies between agriculture and natural ecosystems, and provide a comprehensive economic valuation of eco-agri-food systems. Alexander Müller, TEEB for Agriculture & Food…

Read more

TEEB Challenges and Responses

TEEB ‘s progress, challenges and responses towards mainstreaming the economics of nature. [ENG] [ESP]

Read more

TEEB for Agriculture & Food Concept Note

February 2014- The Concept Note presents the case for and proposed outline content of a TEEB for Agriculture & Food study.

Read more

Natural Capital Accounting and Water Quality: Commitments, Benefits, Needs and Progress

December 2013 – The briefing note outlines existing guidance and examples on water quality accounting and identifies the ongoing challenges related to the development of natural capital accounting and water quality accounting. Inspired by the growing global focus on natural capital accounting, the note identifies the ongoing challenges related to the development of natural capital accounting and water quality accounting, in order to encourage debate and commitment towards effective water and biodiversity policy.

Read more