Natural Capital As a Lever of Change: Scaling Ecosystem Service Science for Transformative Decisions
Thursday, August 13, 2015: 8:00 AM-11:30 AM
309, Baltimore Convention Center
Our society is faced with urgent decisions about how to meet the needs and desires of a global population that is growing in size and affluence. Ecological research has demonstrated many ways in which the outcomes of these decisions will substantively affect and be affected by natural capital and the goods and services that flow from it to sustain and fulfill human life. However, critical information about these relationships often remains outside the major decision-making processes that are shaping the future of our lands and waters and the benefits we derive from them. This symposium addresses current advances in research and science-policy engagements that are beginning to bridge the gaps between ecological knowledge and action. Our speakers represent a set of new interdisciplinary initiatives that are targeting large-scale, influential decisions in order to scale-up the promise and potential of natural capital approaches, applying the best available scientific understanding of human impacts and dependencies on nature. The projects included here involve partnerships among academic researchers, conservation NGOs, businesses, governments and multi-lateral institutions and span a range of critical decision points. Starting with urban development, we explore how ecosystem services information is shaping management of natural capital within and beyond city boundaries for the benefit of growing urban populations. Next, we examine how research is contributing to novel approaches to climate change mitigation and adaptation activities in forests and along coasts. Finally, we consider opportunities for guiding sustainable intensification of agriculture through both corporate and development lenses. By identifying and prioritizing science for the decisions that serve as major levers of change in land, water, marine, and natural resource use, the speakers will demonstrate pathways to impact for more rapid uptake and more radical shifts to sustainable paradigms. The presentations will highlight a diverse set of experiences from the perspectives of both researchers and practitioners, while also providing a synthesis across common themes, including the ways ecosystem service science is transforming decision-making processes, the benefits and challenges of collaborative, decision-driven research, and promising next steps for ecological science in the service of decision-making.