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Ecosystem Marketplace, Marketplace Mitigation Mail

August 19, 2009

From the Editors

The Ecosystem Marketplace's Mitigation Mail
Conservation and Wetland News You Can Bank On

The last few weeks have seen multiple papers from the academic field urging caution – do not go gentle into that world of ecosystem services. One of several papers focusing on ecosystem services in the August 2009 edition of Conservation Letters is Walker et al., who really don’t like biodiversity trading/”bartering” and they’ll tell you why. Vira and Adams (Conservation Letters ) think that ‘ecosystem services’, ‘natural capital’ and ‘biodiversity’ are bandwagon buzzwords that folks are jumping on to argue for conservation, but they might not serve the best argument. Luck et al. (Conservation Letters ) decide ‘ecosystem services’ is an OK way to prioritize conservation efforts when you overlay human needs (water provision and flood mitigation) with previous global biodiversity prioritization mapping. Palmer and Filoso, in the July 31 edition of Science (subscription required ), say “whoooaaa there” to environmental markets dependent on the science of restoration that’s not 100% there. In the July 9 edition of Science , Benayas et al. conduct a meta-analysis of 89 ecological restoration studies and conclude that “ecological restoration increased provision of biodiversity and ecosystem services by 44% and 25%, respectively. However, values of both remained lower in restored than in intact reference ecosystems.” See more detailed summaries below.

Ecosystem Marketplace’s sister organization, the Katoomba Group, has teamed up with five Latin American PES networks to publish a monthly/quarterly newsletter “SinergiA” for practicioners in the field of environmental services in Latin America. SinergiA will be produced on a quarterly basis and includes an opinion section, a review of current PES projects, tools & methodologies, recent publications and upcoming events. Each newsletter focuses on a theme, with REDD highlighted in the first edition (English , Spanish , and Portugese ).

"Conservation and Biodiversity Banking: A Guide to Setting Up and Running Biodiversity Credit Trading Systems" is now available in paperback! Lighter in weight and lighter on your wallet. Get your copy today .

Don’t worry, we’re not all academic this month. Keep reading for a full menu of biodiversity market stories.

—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

If you have comments or would like to submit news stories, write to us at mitmail@ecosystemmarketplace.com.


Pondering Ecuador's Yasuni Proposal

The government of Ecuador raised intriguing questions about Payments for Ecosystem Services a few years back when it offered to avoid drilling for oil in exchange for a carbon payment equal to just half the income the country would earn if it fired up the rigs at then-prevailing prices. EM checks in on this intriguing proposal and invites you to share your views.

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Building Oregon's Ecosystem Marketplace

Landowners whose properties generate ecosystem services should be rewarded for preserving those services – but that requires agreement on what those services are and how they should be measured. The US State of Oregon has embarked on a two-year program designed to reach that agreement.

Second in the Series Building the Ecosystem Marketplace. Adapted from a story that will appear in the August edition of the Oregon Insider .

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Must We Make a Choice Between Helping the Poor and Preserving the Environment?

Schemes that promote payments for ecosystem services (PES) should, in theory, reduce poverty while preserving the environment by rewarding the rural poor for acting as guardians of the ecosystem. Most PES schemes even list poverty reduction as an explicit goal; but will too much emphasis on helping the poor detract from the environmental benefits? Ecosystem Marketplace summarizes key research.

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Streaming Video: Katoomba and the Economics of Rainforest Preservation

Katoomba Meetings have sparked scores of environmental initiatives – from the World Bank's Prototype Carbon Fund to this web site to the "Cuiaba Declaration ". But how exactly do Katoomba Meetings generate such initiatives? Largely through careful cross-pollination: they simply bring together disparate people unified by a common belief in the value of nature.

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Jobs: Ecosystem Marketplace Carbon and Biodiversity Fall 2009 Research Assistants

Ecosystem Marketplace is seeking two part time fall research assistants or one full time temporary position for our Carbon and Biodiversity Markets Programs.

For more information

Event: WILD9: World Wilderness Congress (November 6-13, Merida, Mexico)

Launched by The WILD Foundation in 1977, the World Wilderness Congress (WWC) is now the longest-running, public, international environmental forum. With over 25 years of conservation achievements, the WWC has become a high-profile platform for acting on complex wilderness and wildlands issues.

For more information and to register

EVENT: Business and the 2010 Biodiversity Challenge (Convention for Biological Diversity) (November 30-December 3, Jakarta, Indonesia)

At the end of November, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in conjunction with UNEP Business and Industry Global Dialogue will host the third meeting on Business and the 2010 Biodiversity Challenge. The conference will open with an overview of current government and business perspectives on the biodiversity challenge in a time of global economic recovery. The subsequent session will provide an outline of the business case for biodiversity, including business impacts and dependence on biodiversity and ecosystem services, a recap of private sector engagement under the CBD, identification of main drivers for biodiversity, and presentations from key sectors highlighting innovative initiatives. In depth discussions on the following sectors will take place: tourism, agri-food, fisheries, construction, forestry, cosmetics, energy, mining, and finance. The third session explores, "Operationalizing Biodiversity in the Business Context";. Participants will investigate emerging biodiversity risks and opportunities in business -- with a focus on aligning profitability with biodiversity conservation. Challenges in measuring, valuing, and reporting business impact/ dependence on ecosystem services will also be considered. An examination of management tools for linking biodiversity and business follows, with individual sessions covering: biodiversity offsets and banking, standards and verification, biodiversity impact assessment and life cycle analysis, and biodiversity value chain management. The final day of the conference covers international science and policy, with a closing debate on how to push the agenda forward, advance biodiversity, and increase awareness and action among businesses.

EVENT: 11th Annual BIOECON Conference on Economic Instruments to Enhance the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity (September 21-22, Venice, Italy)

The Conference is targeted at researchers, environmental professionals, international organizations and policy makers working for biodiversity conservation and management. Content will focus on identifying effective and efficient instruments for biodiversity conservation, such as auctions of biodiversity conservation contracts, payment-for-services contracts, taxes, tradable permits, voluntary mechanisms and straightforward command and control. Special emphasis will be given to policy reforms aimed at increasing the commercial rewards for conserving biodiversity, increasing the penalties for biodiversity loss and circulating information on the biodiversity performance requirements of firms.

For more information
To register

Mitigation News
Uganda: Environmentalists Want Biodiversity Offsets (8/12/09)


One of the reasons a company might voluntarily adopt biodiversity offsets is to gain “rights to operate”. Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is implying that they might not oppose drilling for oil in protected areas in Uganda if petroleum companies are offsetting impacts on biological diversity. Tullow Oil has shown an interest in biodiversity offsets. WCS would like to see mandatory offsets, but are exploring voluntary offsets for the time being. Oil companies hope to avoid the problems encountered in Nigeria with stakeholder involvement and hope to create a model with biodiversity offsets in Uganda.

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Jazzing Up Business' Impact on Biodiversity (8/11/09)


Reuters reporter reviews the guidance documents and case studies released by the Business and Biodiversity Offsets Program (a sister initiative of Ecosystem Marketplace under the parent non-profit Forest Trends) after the conclusion of Phase I of the program last month. The author distrusts the worthiness of biodiversity offsets with Shell and Rio Tinto as champions of the program.

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$30 Million Debt-for-Nature Deal Between US and Indonesia (8/7/09)

Channel News Asia

The US is forgiving $30 million in debt in return for protection of forests on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Conservation International calls this the largest-ever debt-for-nature swap under the US Tropical Forest Conservation Act.

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Payments for Rainforest Conservation in Peru (8/3/09)

Blog: Mongabay.com

A new program is offering indigenous communities ~$3.30/ha for rainforest protection, and will leave the door open for increased payments from REDD. Other recent rainforest conservation $s coming to Peru: Japan's loan of $120 million for the protection of 55 million ha, Germany's pledge of $7 million for forest conservation.

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Summary: Why Bartering Biodiversity Fails (8/09)

Conservation Letters

Susan Walker, Ann L. Brower, R.T. Theo Stephens, William G. Lee. Conservation Letters, Vol 2, issue 4, August 2009, p. 149-157. Accessed online in August 2009.

Conservation Letters delivers a doozey for biodiversity trading (or “bartering”, since biodiversity is the un-commodity) in an article challenging of systems of trading biodiversity. A sampling of their criticisms: the breadth of 'biodiversity' can't be captured in a tradable unit; restrictions to trading systems to address time/space and like-for-like issues don't really work; no one is willing to pay for the level of biodiversity information you’d need for a defensible system; and no one in the biodiversity trading world has a vested interest in biodiversity protection -- even enviros -- who don't get into the trading world because they don't buy into the premise that trading systems can be strict, well-measured, and protect biodiversity in the first place. This is not an article suggesting a tweak of one part or another of the system, but rather a rebuke of the whole. We'll look for responses and report them in upcoming newsletters.

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Summary: Ecosystem Services and Conservation Strategy: Beware the Silver Bullet (8/09)

Conservation Letters

Bhaskar Vira, William M. Adams. Conservation Letters, Vol 2, issue 4, August 2009, p. 158-162. Accessed online in August 2009.

Authors Vira & Adams say there's a confusion of terms 'biodiversity', 'natural capital', and 'ecosystem services'. 'Biodiversity' = "a term associated with the full complexity of relations between genes, species, and ecosystems." 'Natural capital' isn't defined in the article, and the term 'stocks of biological diversity' is used more frequently. Flows of 'ecosystem services' (like climate regulation, nutrient cycling, fish, timber, and cultural values of biodiversity) are said to be created by the transformation of stocks of natural capital.

The authors then proceed to lay out reasons why it's dangerous to rely on arguments of conservation for the sake of ecosystem services:
1) External factors/ human intervention not related to the ecosystem could muck up the argument for conservation. Example -- it's hard to make a case for preserving a forest for water yield when dams and channelization are present in the watershed, even if the forest is doing a great job.
2) Complex relationships between natural capital and ecosystem services make it hard to make a case for conservation. Examples: while aggregate stocks of natural capital are important in 'regulating' and 'supporting' ecosystem services (climate regulation, nutrient cycling), technology is important for 'provisioning' services (fish & timber can be extracted easier with better technology), and marginal values are important for 'cultural'; services (we like pandas because they're rare).
3) The "intrinsic merits of the stock of biological capital" won't necessarily be valued when considering ecosystem services that humans demand.

The authors conclude that it's better to "focus debate on the specific stocks of natural systems and processes that they are seeking to protect" instead of arguing based on ecosystem services.

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Summary: Protecting Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity in the World's Watersheds (8/09)

Conservation Letters

Gary W. Luck, Kai M.A. Chan, John P. Fay. Conservation Letters, Vol 2, issue 4, August 2009, p. 179-188. Accessed online in August 2009.

Where do watersheds of importance for biodiversity (Hotspots, Global 200 ecoregions, or endemic bird areas) and human needs (water provisioning, flood mitigation) coincide? Southeast Asia and East Africa. Luck et al. create the first scheme to prioritize protection of ecosystem services in the world’s watersheds.

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Summary: Restoration of Ecosystem Services for Environmental Markets (7/31/09)


Palmer, Margaret A., Solange Filoso. Science. Vol. 325, no. 5940, p. 575-576. Accessed online in August 2009.

"Allure of [environmental] markets may be overshadowing shortcomings in the science and practice of ecological restoration." The primary bent of the article is a concern on the reliance on restoration science that isn’t there yet.

Read article (subscription required)

REDD Shouldn't Neglect Biodiversity Say Scientists (7/30/09)

Blog: Mongabay

Hat tip to Mongabay: “The Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) and the Society for Tropical Ecology (GTOE) jointly issued a "Marburg Declaration" highlighting the dangers of excluding biodiversity from emissions mitigation strategies like the proposed Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) mechanism, which could direct billions of dollars annually to forest conservation initiatives. The risk is that REDD developers may focus efforts where land is the cheapest and most carbon-dense, leaving other biologically-rich ecosystems exposed to degradation or destruction.”

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In Bog We Trust (7/22/09)

Irish Examiner

Who knew? Ireland has a payment system for bog conservation... and they're delinquent on payments (whoops!). Farmers who have been promised payments won't see cash until 2014. "We have spent €6.4m and €4.6m was available this year," said the Department of the Environment's National Park and Wildlife Service. The Department of the Environment started the program after announcing a 10-year ban on bog turf-cutting in an area of the midlands marked as a special conservation area subject to the EU Habitats Directive. The government offered to buy bog land at €5,000-€6,000. Demand apparently outstripped supply of payments. Although the 10-year ban was supposed to go into effect earlier this year, it's been delayed. Still, restrictions on additional bog areas are coming by 2014.

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Legal Precedent for Endangered Species Critical Habitat Protection in Canada (7/14/09)

The Tyee, Canadian Press, Canada

A recent federal court ruling found that the federal government had not followed Canada's Species At Risk Act (SARA), in neglecting to identify critical habitat for the endangered greater sage-grouse even though it had scientific evidence to do so. Ecojustice Canada, who led the legal challenge, said the Ottawa decision will be a precedent for other pending cases around Canada related to recovery plans for the spotted owl, orca and nooksack dace.

Read The Tyee article
Read Canadian Press article

New US Mitigation Banks

South Dakota's First Wetland Mitigation Bank (8/3/09)
KSFY.com, Sioux Falls -- SD, USA

South Dakota gets its first wetland mitigation bank in northwest Minnehaha County. The 100-acre bank was set up by Tetonka LLP, a partnership of three farmers, with help from a $75,000 grant from the NRCS.

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