Monday, March 31, 2008

Ecosystem Services: A Guide for Decision Makers

Presents various methods that use ecosystem services—the benefits of nature such as food, fuel, natural hazard protection, pollination, and spiritual sustenance—to enable decision makers to link ecosystems and economic development.
Janet Ranganathan, Karen Bennett, Ciara Raudsepp-Hearne, Nicolas Lucas, Frances Irwin, Monika Zurek, Neville Ash and Paul West
Publication Downloads:
Karen Bennett
1 202-729-7704


Public sector decision makers, such as mayors, planning commission members, and international development officials, often overlook the connection between healthy ecosystems and the well-being of people. As a result, long term goals may be jeopardized for short term gain. In order to enhance some ecosystem services, other important ecosystem services may be degraded, which can have unintended consequences for the people who depend on the degraded services. For example, building a dam may increase power supply to cities and irrigation to croplands, but reduce the river’s capacity to support fisheries or provide shoreline protection. Costs and benefits of these tradeoffs are often inequitably dispersed. The beneficiaries of the increased power supply may live 50 km away while those living on the river will have to bear the cost of decreased fisheries and increased flooding.

WRI and its partners have produced a guide for the public sector on how to take ecosystem services into account in economic and social strategies. The guide provides examples of how the success of projects, plans and policies can benefit from incorporating ecosystem services. It introduces various methods to link ecosystems and development, including an ecosystem services framework, ecosystem service prioritization, trends analyses, ecosystem service mapping, economic valuation, scenario planning, and a portfolio of policy options targeted at sustaining ecosystem services.

The guide can help answer the following questions:

  • How can an ecosystem services framework be used to organize a decision-making process?
  • What ecosystem services are supplied by nature?
  • Which ecosystem services are most important for a particular development goal?
  • What is known about the condition and trends of these services?
  • How can their value be communicated?
  • What risks and opportunities emerge as a result of changes to ecosystem services?
  • Which services should a city, county, province, or country invest in restoring or sustaining?
  • What policies can help sustain ecosystem services?

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