Assessing ecosystem services
BirdLife’s scientific work on natural capital and ecosystem services focuses on demonstrating nature’s values for people across our conservation programmes. The natural capital approach views the environment as a stock of living and non-living resources which generates a flow of products and services. Biodiversity forms the whole of the living component of the stock whilst ecosystem services represent almost all of the flows that benefit society.
What is natural capital?
Natural capital is the stock of renewable and non-renewable natural resources, (e.g. biodiversity + air, water, soils, minerals, etc.) that combine to yield a flow of benefits (ecosystem services) to people. Natural capital is an anthropocentric framework for understanding the multiple benefits and inter-dependencies between nature, people, the economy and society.
What are ecosystem services?
Ecosystem services are the flows of benefits to people from ecosystems, commonly divided into the following categories: provisioning, regulating, cultural and supporting services. Examples include: food, building materials, clean water, climate regulation and flood protection, as well as opportunities for recreation and spiritual fulfilment.
One of the main challenges of the natural capital concept is the proper integration of biodiversity into natural capital assessments. As part of a Cambridge Conservation Initiative project, BirdLife is contributing to the development of guidelines for businesses, governments and civil society, to adequately capture the contribution that biodiversity makes to the generation of natural capital and ecosystem service flows. We are also working with business partners to improve internal as well as sectorial environmental performance in relation to biodiversity and natural capital.
Sites such as Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) including Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) provide essential benefits to people such as food, materials, water, climate regulation and flood protection, as well as opportunities for recreation and spiritual fulfilment. Working with a range of collaborating organisations, BirdLife has developed a Toolkit for Ecosystem Service Site-based Assessment (TESSA), a low-cost, rapid assessment framework with simple methods for evaluating multiple ecosystem services at the site scale. Through capacity development of the BirdLife partnership and the wider conservation community, TESSA is being applied at sites across the world to help inform and influence local management decisions to support better biodiversity conservation, sustainable use of natural resources and improvements in livelihoods.
Find out more about the Toolkit for Ecosystem Service Site-Based Assessment (TESSA)
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