Ecosystem services experts database online

ESA is a supporting partner of a really innovative and useful new project by the World Resources Institute: an online directory of scientists whose work relates to ecosystems services.  This experts database is meant to be a resource for journalists, policymakers and businesspeople. The free directory enables users to search for experts around the world in a wide range of disciplines, including ecology, geology, environmental science, law, business and architecture. Each expert’s profile includes their area of expertise, a short bio, a CV and contact information. You can view the database here. To be considered for inclusion in this database, send your name, organization, title, and resume or CV to the organizers at the World Resources Institute, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the IUCN or Earthwatch. The criteria to apply are that you are affiliated with a university, NGO, corporation or government body, hold an advanced degree in a field related to ecosystem services and have 5 years in a research or practitioner role related to ecosystem...

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Guest Blog: Simon Levin on holistic ecology

Princeton University Press has a new ecology book out, edited by Simon Levin, titled The Princeton Guide to Ecology. The book includes chapter contributions from more than 120 ecologists, and although its contents span the regular suspects — autecology (apparently this term is enjoying a revival) and population, community, ecosystem and landscape ecology — about a third of the book is devoted to applied ecology. In particular, 13 chapters deal entirely with ecosystem services, a sign that ecologists are realizing the importance of their field in the context of human markets. They’ve begun working with economists — and learning the ropes of economics themselves. We’re delighted to have the below guest blog by Levin himself. by Simon Levin, Editor, The Princeton Guide to Ecology Ecology has experienced remarkable maturation as a discipline over the past century, growing in importance as society becomes more aware of Earth’s environmental problems, and advancing as a science through its own development as well as its cross-fertilization with other disciplines, from mathematics and the physical sciences to molecular biology to the social sciences and humanities.  That growth necessarily has carried with it an expansion in breadth, bringing increasing challenges to the maintenance of ecology as a coherent subject, and to the easy exchange of ideas and knowledge across the spectrum from evolutionary biologists to biogeochemists to environmental economists.  At the same time, the need to maintain and develop those exchanges has never been greater, as the nature of ecosystems and societies as complex adaptive systems has received increased currency, as natural systems and civilizations have become more interlinked, and as the value of an evolutionary perspective on ecosystem dynamics have grown more apparent. Against this background, Princeton University Press has produced in one volume, The Princeton Guide to Ecology, an integrated view of the subject, and one that can serve multiple audiences.  Princeton’s Monographs in Population Biology (MPB) has been one of the most important forces for integrating theory and empirical work in ecology for more than 40 years, since MacArthur and Wilson’s landmark Theory of Island Biogeography appeared in 1967. Ecology, as well as the MPB series, has a very different face today than it did in 1967, and the obvious value of this Guide made the task of recruiting distinguished authors an easy one.  The resultant authoritative nature of the articles will therefore provide specialists with a needed invaluable reference work, documenting how the subject has developed in the last century, and laying out challenges for the next century.   On the other hand, the expository style the authors have achieved will also make the articles accessible to a diverse lay audience.  The...

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ESA Position Statement on economic development

ESA released a position statement today on the proper place of ecological and environmental capital in the nation’s economy.  As the United States and much of the world try to recover from the current economic crisis, ESA recommends that long-term sustainability should be prioritized in the restructuring of business models and economic growth. A key to this task, the statement says, is to take natural capital into account. Natural assets and ecosystem services — such as water filtration, pollination and carbon sequestration — lack a formal market and are often overlooked in policy and business decisions. Yet, the statement asserts, healthy ecosystems are the foundation for sound economies, sustaining human life with services such as food, fuel, and clean air. The statement recommends that three things need to be recognized by policymakers and businesspeople in order to create an environmentally sustainable economy: (1)   The value and economic impacts of ecosystem services. The statement recommends that decision makers should take natural capital into account when making economic calculations, citing as an example the World Bank’s concept of adjusted net saving, which calculates an economy’s rate of savings after factoring in natural resource consumption, pollution-related damages, and other environmental impacts. This creation of markets that value natural capital would drive more environmentally and socially sustainable investments. (2)   Environmental externalities. Environmental impacts and resource shortages resulting from economic activity often impact people and communities far removed from the source; economists refer to these external effects as externalities. Agribusiness, for example, benefits from using nitrogen fertilizers but does not bear the costs associated with oxygen-depleted dead zones in aquatic ecosystems. Examples of internalizing these external affects include property rights for environmental assets, payments for ecosystem services and liabilities for environmental damage, including carbon tax or cap-and-trade systems. (3)   Improved predictive capacity. Currently, the statement says, the capacity to predict future environmental costs of public and private investments are weak at best. The statement recommends improving these abilities, and says that such measures already exist in many national regulations and international agreements concerning human, animal and plant health. A recent example is the World Trade Organization’s Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement. What are your opinions about environmental sustainability and economic development? Share your thoughts in the...

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USDA’s new Office of Ecosystem Services and Markets

The USDA announced today that it will establish an Office of Ecosystem Services and Markets.  According to their press release, the office will help develop new guidelines and methods to assess ecosystem service benefits and create markets for ecosystem services.  The authorization for this office was approved in this summer’s Farm Bill, which Agriculture Secretary Ed Shafer spoke out against. Ecosystem services are one way that ecologists can place a currency on the valuable services our environment provides, such as water filtration and air purification, carbon sequestration, pollination and recreation. The new office’s first priority will be carbon sequestration.  Says the press release: “Agriculture producers provide many ecosystem services which have historically been viewed as free benefits to society – clean water and air, wildlife habitat, carbon storage, and scenic landscapes. Lacking a formal structure to market these services, farmers, ranchers and forest landowners are not generally compensated for providing these critical public benefits. Market-based approaches to conservation are proven to be a cost-effective method to achieve environmental goals and sustain working and natural landscapes. Without financial incentives, these ecosystem services may be lost as privately-owned lands are sold or converted to development.” Valuing ecosystem services in a way that allows environmental benefits to act as currency is one way that conservation ecologists can raise awareness about the importance of environmental protection. What does the ecological community think about this new office? Is this the right approach to valuing ecosystem...

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