8 Sep 2014

New accessible toolkit helps non-experts to value important natural sites

A team measuring carbon storage values in Dominican Republic. Photo: Isadora Angarita-Martinez
By Jenny Merriman

Ecosystems provide us with an immense range of benefits such as the production of food, clean water, erosion control and climate regulation.  A reduction or loss of these services can have severe economic, social and environmental impacts.  However, methods for obtaining such data are frequently too expensive or technically-demanding to be practical.

In response a group of experts developed a Toolkit for Ecosystem Service Site-based Assessment (TESSA) – an accessible, easy-to-use, and interactive toolkit that now allows non-experts to derive reasonable estimates of the provision of key services. 

TESSA was launched online today to coincide with the 7th Annual Ecosystem Services Partnership Conference in Costa Rica.

TESSA provides the tools required for non-experts to measure and value sites, and has been applied at 24 sites across five continents to date.  Most users to date have been conservation practitioners, although the methods are applicable to a wide range of users, including natural resource managers (e.g. forestry, fisheries, water managers), land-use planners, development organisations (e.g. for poverty alleviation), and the private sector.

 “We hope that by making TESSA more intuitive to use, and available both on and offline, many more people will be able to assess the ecosystem service values of sites and how they might change under different land use decisions”,

said Jenny Merriman, BirdLife’s Ecosystem Services Officer and TESSA Coordinator.

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TESSA provides guidance and methods to value ecosystem services currently provided by sites compared to their likely provision under different management decisions, thus allowing the consequences of alternative management decisions to be assessed.

“This information is critical for informing decision-making at the local level and when scaled up, can provide information about the social and environmental consequences of our actions”,

added Dr Iris Möller, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge.

Access the Toolkit for Ecosystem Service Site-based Assessment (TESSA) and more information here

The development of TESSA is a collaborative initiative between Anglia Ruskin University, BirdLife International, RSPB, Tropical Biology Association, UNEP-WCMC and the University of Cambridge. The interactive development was funded by the ESRC Impact Acceleration Account pilot awarded to Cambridge University. This builds on previous funding from other sources. TESSA is an evolving resource and, subject to continued funding, more content will be added in future versions.