SYMP 19-3: The Natural Capital Project: A framework for ecosystem services in decision-making
Taylor Ricketts1, Gretchen Daily2, Peter Kareiva3, Steve Polasky4, M. Rebecca Shaw3, Heather Tallis5, Christine Tam5, and Buzz Thompson2. (1) World Wildlife Fund, (2) Stanford University, (3) The Nature Conservancy, (4) University of Minnesota, (5) The Natural Capital Project
Natural ecosystems support human livelihoods and economies through a variety of ecosystem services (e.g., water purification, carbon storage, crop pollination). Despite wide recognition of the economic importance of these services, governments and other decision-makers still lack the information and tools to incorporate their value into relevant decisions. The Natural Capital Project, a new global partnership, is addressing this problem by developing tools to map the flows of ecosystem services, model their value, and craft policies and financial mechanisms to reward their conservation. Working with local scientists and stakeholders, we are deploying these tools in a set of priority regions for biodiversity, where the goals of conservation and economic development must be advanced together. This approach is distinctive in its synthetic nature: analyzing multiple services simultaneously; considering biophysical flows, economic values, and policy options together; and doing so broad scales relevant to resource management decisions. Our results will help identify the synergies between biodiversity conservation and economic development when the two are indeed aligned, and to clearly understand the trade-offs when they are not. In addition, they will help identify key “suppliers” and “consumers” of ecosystem services, suggesting efficient and equitable payment mechanisms to encourage conservation.