Positive Steps for Resilient Ecosystem Services

Although much of the mainstream press attention to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (see State of the World’s Ecosystems posted 31 March 2005) has emphasized the losses of ecosystem services and the adverse trends, a substantial fraction of the MA technical reports is devoted to positive, feasible steps that can be taken to improve ecosystem services in the future. All of these proactive steps are grounded in policies that are presently in place somewhere in the world today. A few examples:

• Increase the use of economic instruments and market-based approaches, e.g. assignments of property rights for ecosystem services, user fees for externalities, payment for ecosystem services, and mechanisms to express consumer preferences through markets (such as certification schemes)

• Explicitly include ecosystem services in poverty-reduction strategies

• Connect environmental management across ministries and sectors, instead of isolating it in a single ministry

• Create co-management systems to maintain reserves as part of regional mosaics

• Include local and indigenous knowledge, as well as technical knowledge, in decision-making

• Expand information available to individuals about how ecosystems affect them, and how their actions affect ecosystems

• Expand environment-friendly technology, especially in the areas of agriculture (water, nutrient and land use), urban design, and energy efficiency

The MA findings raise many questions about the role of such policies in resilience of social-ecological systems. Even more importantly, perhaps, they raise questions about how societies and economies can be transformed to ones that are more proactive with respect to ecosystem services. Such questions are explored in the MA scenarios. For example, the environmentally-proactive scenarios, Adapting Mosaic and TechnoGarden, address different “bundles” of environmental policies. They ask how the world could move toward paths that emphasize adaptive management or green technology, and explore some of the consequences of these paths for resilience of ecosystem services.

The MA Scenarios will be published in late 2005. A short synopsis of the scenarios is included in the MA Synthesis Report which is downloadable from MAweb.org. This report also summarizes the policy options reviewed by the MA. The same web site offers Living Beyond our Means: Natural Assets and Human Well-Being which provides a more popularized version of the MA main messages.

[Illustrations by Pille Bunnell for the MA Scenarios Working Group]

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