Ecosystem Services, Human Wellbeing, (and TEEB)


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We had an interesting discussion about ecosystem services and human wellbeing in our 6pm session, and also some discussion about associating economic value with ecosystems services.  The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment has a chapter on Ecosystems and Human Well-being (Ch3, p71) which might be of interest to those wanting to read further on this.

The MEA above should not be confused with TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity), which was a different initiative, and no doubt well-meaning, but it was met with fierce criticism by some leading environmentalists.

Hope that is of interest to anyone wanting to dig a bit deeper. But maybe others have a different take on this?

Kind regards, Martin

Martin Parsons

Great Fen Voluntary Officer with the Wildlife Trust BCN, Wildlife Trust BCN

After many years working Perkins Engines Company as an engineer focussed on reducing diesel engine exhaust emissions, I have changed direction, and am now working in conservation. I have completed the first year of an MSc in Applied Wildlife Conservation in Cambridge (ARU). Since Oct 2019 I have been working as a voluntary officer for the Wildlife Trust BCN on the Great Fen project. I am also heavily involved with the Langdyke Countryside Trust, who look after 200 acres of nature reserves in Jon Clare Countryside, north-west of Peterborough (in north Cambridgeshire, UK). Like many others, my 2020 plans have been significantly impacted by the Covid19 lockdown, so I am looking for the positives, and pursuing opportunities to acquire new skills.
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A bit of context to my comment that the ecosystems services model doesn't fit all circumstances. I don't know if my observations translate to other situations or not - Ascension is fairly unique. Ascension is a British Overseas territory in the South Atlantic, it has only been inhabited for the last 200 years (no indigenous population due to lack of vegetation and fresh water supply) and there is no right to remain. About 700 people live on island. It is a young volcanic island so not much soil and few native and endemic plants. Seven endemic plants (5 ferns, one euphorbia and a grass) remain whilst others have gone extinct. None of these plants can be described as providing ecosystem services. They don't prevent erosion (people introduced mexican thorn for erosion control, very invasive), they aren't edible, most of the habitat of the ferns has been taken over by a man made rainforest experiement thought up by Darwin and Joseph Hooker. I think they are beautiful and interesting but it can be a tough sell as to why we should conserve them and using the ecosystems services approach did not do them any favours. The project wrote Ascension into their funding but I think the approach was better suited elsewhere. Incidentally there is a very passionate St Helenian who is in charge of plant conservation on the island and some great people at Kew gardens who help so I have hope yet for these threatened species. 

Go to the profile of Beth Robinson
9 months ago

Hello both, thanks for your thoughts. I share a similar view to Keiron about Ecosystem services with a love-hate relationship. My brain likes to put things into categories, but sometimes it can be an oversimplification. Eliza, I see your point and I can see how Ascension is quite unique in this way! Do you think you could say the endemic plants had a role under the cultural services sub-heading? So aesthetic or even cultural to the people who have lived there for the past 200 years? Or as an interesting thing for visitors to the island to see? Perhaps not, just playing devil's advocate here. 

They are of interest to some visitors but it is very hard to develop tourism because the needs of the military bases take priority and currently the runway needs resurfacing so no flights from the UK only via St Helena. With the exception of the American military contractors few people get to see these plants unless they go looking for them as they grow in the klinka next to lava flows. No right to remain means that a lot of the population change frequently, with the exception of some St Helenians. Yes cultural services but it seems like forcing something into a category for the sake of it and trying to make a situation fit a model rather than the other way around. I suspect there are similar struggles with some endangered plants no one has found a use for yet or animals particularly lacking in charisma. It may be a useful model in some situations and help bridge the gap between conservationists and those in charge of the money. I think the danger is what do we do with species who don't fit well in the model of ecosystem services? Sorry gone slightly off topic but I do find it really interesting.

Go to the profile of Beth Robinson
9 months ago

Yep, I see your point there. I do think ecosystem services is a trendy word which is one of the drivers of such challenges you explain. I had a friend doing a PhD on Ascension island and it got very tricky to do fieldwork when they closed the runway...! 

The lovely Lucy by any chance?

Go to the profile of Beth Robinson
9 months ago

Yes! It was the lovely Lucy :) 

Go to the profile of Helen Simms
9 months ago

Thank you Martin for posting this link.  I will find it very useful.