OOS 1-5 - Ecosystem services: Economy and beyond

Monday, August 7, 2017: 2:50 PM
Portland Blrm 254, Oregon Convention Center
Heather Tallis, Office of Chief Scientist, The Nature Conservancy, Arlington, VA

Ecosystem services is a concept that links biological diversity - of species, systems and functions - to the diverse aspects of human life that determine our own well being. In many applications of the concept, monetary values are used to proxy how the environment contributes to many elements of human well being. It is now clear that we must go well beyond monetary valuation if the concept of ecosystem services is to accurately represent the diverse elements of human well being linked to nature, and the important distributional effects that environmental management can have by altering ecosystem service flows to some groups of people and not others. Further, emerging work emphasizes that the ecosystem service concept itself is not broad enough to capture all impactful linkages between environmental management and human well being, suggesting that a broader frame is needed to avoid unintended consequences.


Using case examples, we will explore how an increasingly diverse set of metrics is being used to reflect environmental management impacts on a wider range of non-monetary human benefits and to explore equity impacts of management decisions. In a mitigation example from the Peruvian Amazon, we projected how a proposed road could affect drinking water quality and carbon sequestration, and found likely disproportionate damages for indigenous populations. In a correlative study in California, we explored elementary school educational benefits of environmental exposure, and found that urban schools may benefit more. Cases from Kenyan grazing lands and North Carolina water service management show that the ecosystem service concept can be too narrow, missing unintended consequences of environmental management decisions that can create or exacerbate gender and racial inequalities. These cases emphasize the need to continue to expand the disciplines and perspectives brought together in research, policy and program design to fully capture the connections between biological and human diversity.