This Week in Biodiversity: Bring on the Bean-Counters

As year one in the UN Decade on Biodiversity draws to a close, we think things are looking up. After being bombarded all year with bad news about accelerating biodiversity loss, economic pains, and government one-step-forward, two-steps-back, this month’s Mitigation Mail ends 2011 on a high note.  Read on for the latest from the world of biodiversity – including a reader poll on 2011’s top biodiversity stories.

NOTE: This article has been reprinted from Ecosystem Marketplace’s Mitigation Mail newsletter. You can receive this summary of global news and views from the world of biodiversity automatically in your inbox here.

16 December 2011 | As year one in the UN Decade on Biodiversity draws to a close, we think things are looking up. After being bombarded all year with bad news about accelerating biodiversity loss, economic pains, and government one-step-forward, two-steps-back, this month’s Mitigation Mail ends 2011 on a high note.
Why the optimism? We’ve got item after item in this newsletter where policy-makers, the business community, practitioners, and communities are wading into the messy details of biodiversity and habitat conservation and emerging with concrete, useful lessons and tools. From forays into incorporating ecosystem services into existing impact assessment methodologies like cost-benefit analysis and Natural Resource Damage Assessments, to new natural capital accounting frameworks coming out of both the public and private sectors, to taking a harder look at biodiversity certification schemes, we’re rolling up our sleeves and getting to work. At any rate, this MitMail will definitely satisfy your inner wonk.
As always, if you value getting the latest news on habitat and biodiversity market mechanisms in your inbox every month, consider becoming a supporting subscriber. Your support enables us to keep the lights on and keeps the news and analytics coming, free of charge. And with a donation of $150, you’ll get your (or your company’s) name and website link in a full year of issues of the Mitigation Mail news brief. Make a donation here.
Happy Holidays!
—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

If you have comments or would like to submit news stories, write to us at [email protected].

Poll: 2011 Success Stories

As 2011 draws to a close, we’d like to ask our readers what they think were the biggest biodiversity & habitat market success stories of the last year. Pick your favorite by clicking the little ‘Thumbs Up’ icon next to each entry (or write-in your own nomination), and a confirmation page will give you the opportunity to vote for more articles if you like (although only once for each article). We’ll publish the top ten in a special year-end edition of Mitigation Mail.

  1. VOTE Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) launches
    (January 2011)Read Article
  2. VOTE Obama administration clean water guidance to expand wetland protection
    (May 2011) Read Article
  3. VOTE UK announces biodiversity banking pilot plans for 2012
    (July 2011) Read Article
  4. VOTEPrivate mitigation banks come out on top in North Carolina’s mitigation hierarchy
    (July 2011) Read Article
  5. VOTE Mitigation bank secures private capital loan with wetland credits as collateral and repayment source
    (August 2011) Read Article
  6. VOTE Conservation banking comes to the Chesapeake Bay
    (September 2011) Read Article
  7. VOTE Forest Stewardship Council to develop certification standards for ecosystem services
    (September 2011) Read Article
  8. VOTE Willamette Partnership and Pinchot Institute launch a landowner-friendly Ecosystem Crediting Platform
    (September 2011) Read Article
  9. VOTE UNEP, GRI, and CREM offer strategies for corporate ecosystem service disclosure
    (October 2011) Read Article
  10. VOTE Europe aims to tie agricultural subsidies to ecosystem management
    (November 2011) Read Article
  11. VOTE Write-in option (you’ll be taken to a different page to add your response)


New Guide for Measuring Social and Biodiversity Impacts of REDD

Negotiators from around the world are working to develop a global mechanism for slowing climate change by saving endangered rainforests and capturing carbon in trees, but an old issue has once again brought talks to a halt. That issue is “safeguards”, or how to ensure that forests aren’t saved at the expense of the people living in them.

It’s a sticky issue, and one that the Climate, Community, and Biodiversity (CCB) Standards have been wrestling with in the voluntary carbon markets for years. More than 40 projects have already been validated under the standard, and CCB projects accounted for roughly 60% of all forest carbon projects tracked in Ecosystem Marketplace’s report State of the Forest Carbon Markets 2011: From Canopy to Currency – making them by far the leading standard for “non-carbon” values. As with most standards, the CCB Standards look great on paper. The challenge is to implement them effectively.

Read the article at Ecosystem Marketplace.

Webinar: Social and Biodiversity Impact Assessment

Last month, Forest Trends (publisher of Ecosystem Marketplace), the CCB Alliance (CCBA), Flora and Fauna International (FFI) and the Rainforest Alliance – came together to develop user-friendly guidance for project developers on how to conduct cost-effective social and biodiversity impact assessment (SBIA). The result of these efforts is the recently released Social and Biodiversity Impact Assessment (SBIA) Manual for REDD+ Projects.

CCBA hosted a webinar along with the report launch – and now the webinar recording is available for those who missed the live event.

Watch the webinar here.

Mitigation News

WRI Working Paper Considers Ecosystem Services in Impact Assessment

Organizations like the International Finance Corporation and the US Council on Environmental Quality are now requiring environmental impact assessments to include ecosystem service impacts, but there’s a dearth of clear guidance out there on exactly how to do so. The World Resources Institute aims to fill that gap with its latest working paper, Ecosystem Services Review for Impact Assessment: Introduction and Guide to Scoping (“ESR for IA”). The document offers a conceptual framework, step-by-step guidance, and tools for considering ecosystem services in impact assessment. This working paper is the first of two; a Guide to Impact Analysis and Mitigation will be released early next year.

WRI is also inviting practitioners to share feedback on the working paper and to submit their projects for consideration for road-testing the ESR for IA methodology.

Learn more here.

Are Biodiversity Certifications Working?

A Forbes dispatch from a recent UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre and Convention on Biological Diversity Secretariat meeting recounts an extensive conversation on the above question. The workshop reviewed three dozen different biodiversity-related certification schemes and their effectiveness. One key takeaway: people can’t seem to agree on a definition of biodiversity or how to measure it. Not surprisingly, this lends itself to a lack of reporting on biodiversity impacts under the standards. Workshop participants also mused whether a biodiversity-friendly land management certification (measured in hectares) under the Green Development Initiative might work. A full report of the meeting will be released later this month at a Tokyo meeting of the Global Platform on Business and Biodiversity.

Get further coverage at Forbes.

Rio Tinto Digs Into Costs and Benefits of its Biodiversity Offsets

Rio Tinto, a mining multinational, recently commissioned the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) for a study valuing costs and benefits from biodiversity protection in Madagascar’s Tsitongambarika forest. Rio Tinto has been financing conservation activities in the forest as part of an offset strategy for mining impacts. The IUCN found that forest conservation activities will deliver USD$17.3 million in benefits globally over 30 years. That estimate comes from valuations for wildlife habitat, water regulation services, and carbon storage, plus capital, maintenance, and foregone income costs. Crucially, the IUCN notes, while benefits accrue globally, costs are largely local, underlining the need for careful design of compensation schemes.

Read a press release and download the report here.

British Columbia Pilots Payments for Ecologically Friendly Farmers and Ranchers

In British Columbia, a coalition of academics, farmers, and conservation groups are piloting a compensation scheme for farming practices specifically aimed at supporting and enhancing ecosystem services. The Ecological Services Initiative (ESI) pilot sites, at thirteen farms and ranches across the province, is focusing on wetland and other sensitive habitat protection and restoring riparian areas. Farmers won’t be quitting their day jobs – the pilot project is paying a CAD $2000 stipend, and compensation under the program may only amount to about $100 per acre – but the ESI hopes the payments will encourage agricultural producers to go beyond what’s legally required of them.

Read more at the Vancouver Sun.

Coastal Wetlands to Join the Carbon Club?

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Conservation International (CI) released the first-ever policy framework and action plan last week on incorporating blue carbon – carbon sequestered in coastal marine habitat like mangroves and coastal wetlands – into the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)’s activities. Besides their mighty carbon-sequestering abilities, these areas provide critical flood protection, critical habitat, and water quality regulation services to local communities. The Blue Carbon Policy Framework identifies potential financing opportunities and mechanisms for protection and enhancement of these ecosystems. Bringing coastal marine habitat protection into the UNFCCC and REDD+ fold could do wonders for the conservation of these rapidly disappearing habitats.

Read a press release here.
Download the report here (pdf).

Wetlands Carbon is Blue and Improved

Curious about blue carbon? Click over to the Restore America’s Estuaries (RAE) for a Thanksgiving post offering an overview of wetlands and blue carbon activities in the US and internationally. With the IUCN and Conservation International launching their Blue Carbon Policy Framework, the IPCC developing guidance for updating greenhouse gas inventories to account for wetland carbon, and a proliferation of study sites around the United States to work out restoration and crediting methodologies, blue carbon’s gaining momentum fast. RAE themselves are hard at work on a greenhouse gas offset protocol for wetlands carbon that could be a big figure in California’s upcoming carbon market and across the U.S. Read the RAE post to get a handle on just how far blue carbon has come in the past few years.

Learn more here.

Rarely Do We Use “Accounting” and “Exciting” in the Same Sentence, But…

Back in 2009, the European Environment Agency fast-tracked an initiative to develop natural capital accounts for Europe, complementing the UN System of National Accounts. Their preliminary findings are now out in the form of a new publication, An Experimental Framework for Ecosystem Capital Accounting in Europe. The report considers the feasibility of national ecosystem accounting and suggests indicators and aggregates that might best track the state of natural capital. The framework also offers two balance sheets (based on the recommended indicators and aggregates): one tracks assets and liabilities in physical units, the other in monetary terms. This would allow policy-makers to track both physical degradation and “the non-paid consumption of ecosystem capital.”

Read the report here.

U.K. Ecosystem Markets Task Force to Battle Business Apathy

Executives from major British firms including Climate Change Capital, Jaguar Land Rover, United Utilities, and Unilever have announced the formation of a new Ecosystem Markets Task Force, to raise awareness of the relationship between ecosystem services and the bottom line, and promote business opportunities within that nexus. Noting that the biodiversity offset market could transact between £500m- £1.2b a year in the U.K, task force member David Hill, chairman of the Environment Bank argued at a launch event that “we need to move away from seeing the environment as a charitable exercise.” The task force plans to make recommendations to the government by 2013 on regulating business ecosystem impacts.

Read more at Business Green.

Puma Chases Down its Impacts with New Environmental Profit & Loss Statement

Sportswear label Puma’s just released the results from its first-ever environmental profit & loss (EP&L) statement, estimating the value of its global impacts from land use, carbon emissions, water consumption, air pollution, and waste. Most of those impacts come from the supply chain, according to the company: of USD$196 million in environmental costs, $185.5 million are supply chain derived, while production of raw materials like leather and cotton represented a little of half of total impact values. Gucci and YSL, which are owned along with Puma by parent company PPR, also announced that they would release EP&L statements.

Get the story at GreenBiz.

TEEB Goes To Yale

Yale University has posted free online videorecordings of lectures from its TEEB@Yale graduate-level course. The course, based on The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) series of reports, includes introductory lectures on ecosystems and environmental valuation, as well as digging deeper into valuation methodologies, cost-benefit analysis for ecological restoration, market mechanisms including PES and REDD+, and the discount rate debate. Check back in January for reading lists and other course materials. Lecturers include TEEB contributing authors and other heavyweights in the field.


Visit TEEB@Yale here.



Clean Water Act Clarification Just Got Cloudier

After the 2006 Carabell/Rapanos decision, the Supreme Court Justices recommended that the Army Corps of Engineers conduct rulemaking to clarify Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction. Now apparently some folks in Congress disagree: language to prohibit Corps rulemaking (or provide clarification of any kind) has been introduced in both houses: an amendment in the new House appropriations bill (HR 2354) and a suggested amendment to the Senate appropriations bill (SA 939).

The Corps (along with the Environmental Protection Agency) has issued guidance since the Rapanos decision, and indicated that rulemaking was highly likely in the future. The amendments are supported by some members of the business community and private-property rights advocates; conservation and sportmens’ groups on the other hand are in favor of rulemaking around CWA jurisdiction and not pleased with this new development.

Get the full story at the Compleat Wetlander.

An Ecosystem-Services Based Damage Assessment for the Gulf Spill?

In a new interim report, a National Research Council committee argues that the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico should include ecosystem service impacts. Moving from measuring impacts in ecological terms (for example, fish kills or acres of damaged habitat) to a focus on ecosystem services (like fisheries production or flood protection) allows both a broader assessment of damages and better restoration planning, says the report. The NRDA process includes measuring damages and determining appropriate compensation. Thus, the authors concede, an ecosystem services approach means contending with gaps in scientific data and valuation challenges – but it would nevertheless deliver better damage assessment and restoration planning over the long term. A final report is due out in spring 2013.

Read a press release and download the interim report here.

Goat Farmers and Bog Turtles are the New Dream Team

Bog turtles populations have fallen by half in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic in the last twenty years as their wetland habitats have disappeared; the species was listed as endangered in 1997. Now their recovery has gotten a boost, thanks to payments to landowners through the USDA’s Wetlands Reserve Program. One reason the payments – up to $23,000 an acre, with about 1,000 acres enrolled so far – have been so popular is that controlled livestock grazing is on the list of approved conservation practices: it helps control regrowth of woody vegetation.

That means some lands enrolled in the program have turned a profitable side business in fattening cattle and goats for market. “It’s a good example of market-driven conservation that’s creating a win-win for the goat farmer and the landowner,” says Scott Smith, an endangered-species biologist at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Read more at the New York Times.

New Site Offers Comprehensive Look at Mississippi River Delta Restoration

Thanks to the efforts of a coalition of environmental groups, there’s now a one-stop shop for information about coastal wetlands restoration in southeastern Louisiana. will host expert commentary as well on the science, policy and economic issues behind restoration, as well as hosting the Delta Dispatches blog.

Visit the site here.

Call for Nominations for National Wetlands Awards

The Environmental Law Institute has put out a call for nominations for the 2012 National Wetlands Awards. The awards program honor leaders in wetland conservation and restoration across six categories: Education and Outreach; Science Research; Conservation and Restoration; Landowner Stewardship; State, Tribal and Local Program Development; and Wetland Community Leader. Nominations will be accepted until January 13th.

Learn more here.

And Now for Some Wetland Mitigation Prices

A look at some of the wetland credit transactions popping up in our inboxes from around the US shows that credit prices are – well, all over the map. We’ve seen 275 credits go for $3,273 each at the Vidalia port project in Louisiana, $280,000 for 12.3 acres (working out to about $22,760 per acre) offsetting Chesapeake Regional Airport expansion, and an estimated $125,000 per acre in a proposed habitat mitigation fund for the Gateway Pacific Terminal project in Whatcom County, Washington. Location, location, location!




Ph D Scholarship Interdisciplinary Biodiversity Conservation Project, RMIT University

A PhD scholarship is available for an interdisciplinary biodiversity conservation project associated with the RMIT hub for the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions in Melbourne, Australia. Research undertaken by the successful applicants will overlap with one or more of the following areas: understanding and planning for the impacts of urbanisation on biodiversity; evaluating the efficacy of market-based instruments for biodiversity conservation; and integrating socio-ecological information to evaluate conservation policy.

Learn more here.


The Business Case for Biodiversity: What Companies Need to Know
This webinar, presented by the 2 degrees Sustainable Supply Chain working group and hosted by Stefan Hí¶rmann, Project Director at Global Nature Fund, will bring in a number of case studies which demonstrate best practice in this field, and highlight what to look out for in driving this agenda forward. Join this webinar to learn: why your company should be taking biodiversity into account, the meaning and value of biodiversity and ecosystem services, risks and opportunities of corporate biodiversity programs, and actions, tools, assistance, and platforms available to businesses. 16 December 2011.

Learn more here.

Webinar: 2012 Wetland Status and Trends

The Swamp School is pleased to announce that it will be sponsoring the 2012 Wetland Status and Trends Conference on January 10, 2012. The new year starts with some major announcements regarding wetland identification and regulation. This conference will present the latest updates to the wetland delineation approaches as well as news on the changes to the Clean Water Act and Jurisdictional Determinations. This four-hour conference will be presented live, online and is interactive. Participants will be able ask questions and engage with the conference in real-time. Tuition is $97. 10 January 2012.

Learn more here.

The TEEB Conference 2012, Mainstreaming the Economics of Nature: Challenges for Science and Implementation

TEEB invites the research and policy community to Leipzig, Germany, to discuss the state of the art in Environmental Valuation, Ecosystem Services and Science-Policy Processes. Conference participants will have the possibility to discuss and update the findings of the TEEB study and contribute with their own findings, experiences and approaches to a new understanding of the link between economics, decision-making and the environment. 19-22 March, Leipzig, Germany.

Learn more here.

SAC-SEPA Biennial conference: Valuing Ecosystems: Policy, Economic and Management Interactions

This conference will seek to present not only the best possible scientific understanding of the complexities associated with the delivery of multiple ecosystem services but also provide a forum to raise and discuss what still needs to be done to have an ecosystem approach recognised and supported by land managers, researchers and policy makers. 3-4 April 2012. Edinburgh, Scotland.

Learn more here.

Biodiversity Without Boundaries Conference


The annual NatureServe Conservation & Natural Heritage Conference, “Biodiversity Without Boundaries” will be held in Portland, OR April 22-26, 2012. Ecosystem services is one of the featured topics on the agenda, which will include a full day of sessions and workshops on this theme. 22-26 April 2012. Portland OR.

Learn more here.

National Mitigation & Ecosystem Banking Conference

The only national conference that brings together key players in this industry, and offers quality hands-on sessions and important regulatory updates. Learn from & network with the 400+ attendees the conference draws, offering perspectives from bankers, regulators, and users. 8-11 May 2012. Sacramento CA.

Learn more here.

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