Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Biodiversity: From hotspots to human needs

Protecting ecosystem services and biodiversity in the world's watersheds

Authors: Luck, Gary W.1; Chan, Kai M.A.2; Fay, John P.3

Source: Conservation Letters, Volume 2, Number 4, August 2009 , pp. 179-188(10)

Publisher: Blackwell Publishing


Despite unprecedented worldwide biodiversity loss, conservation is not at the forefront of national or international development programs. The concept of ecosystem services was intended to help conservationists demonstrate the benefits of ecosystems for human well-being, but services are not yet seen to truly address human need with current approaches focusing mostly on financial gain. To promote development strategies that integrate conservation and service protection, we developed the first prioritization scheme for protecting ecosystem services in the world's watersheds and compared our results with global conservation schemes. We found that by explicitly incorporating human need into prioritization strategies, service-protection priorities were squarely focused on the world's poorest, most densely populated regions. We identified watersheds in Southeast Asia and East Africa as the most crucial priorities for service protection and biodiversity conservation, including Irrawaddy—recently devastated by cyclone Nargis. Emphasizing human need is a substantial improvement over dollar-based, ecosystem-service valuations that undervalue the requirements of the world's poor, and our approach offers great hope for reconciling conservation and human development goals.

Keywords: Biodiversity; carbon storage; conservation investment; conservation policy; ecosystem services; flood mitigation; human well-being; water provision;watershed

Document Type: Research article

DOI: 10.1111/j.1755-263X.2009.00064.x

Affiliations: 1: Institute for Land, Water and Society, Charles Sturt University, Albury, NSW 2640, Australia 2: Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada 3: Geospatial Analysis Program, Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-9328, USA

A laudable effort!

Several research questions remain, for instance: is investment in biodiversity (and resulting ecosystems goods and services) an effective developmental strategy when compared to alternatives? Who pays for these investments? Will the benefits of investing in ecosystems in fact reach the poor? By which mechanisms?

Overlaying the supply of ecosystem goods and services to the demand from a human needs perspective is a vital first step. Placing this in context of alternative developmental programmes is next. Institutions that realise those remaining real values in a sustainable way are key to implementation.

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