Standardising the valuation of nature’s services

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA: A working group of resource economists met in Cape Town this April to agree on the methods they will use in order to contribute to the development of a standardised national accounting system for valuing ecosystem services.

This will amount to an ecosystem equivalent of something like the ‘gross domestic product’ (GDP), which is the United Nations’ way of creating a global standard for countries wanting to report on their economic performance. GDP is part of the UN systems of national accounting.

The working group is part of the Ecosystem Services Accounting for Development (ESAforD) project, which is a seven-country collaboration of researchers that is led by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency.

They have identified three primary ecosystem services as their focus areas for this four-year project: pollination services; natural systems that improve water quality; and the provision of amenity value by green open space areas in urban settings.

Researchers from South Africa, Costa Rica, China, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Sweden were hosted by the University of Cape Town’s Environmental Policy Research Unit (EPRU) at the April workshop, where they spent five days discussing the methods that they will use during the process.

‘The working group was formed a year ago,’ explains EPRU director Dr Jane Turpie. ’We’ve been meeting once a month by teleconference to work on our methods for valuing these specific ecosystem services. Now we needed to get together in person to further develop these methods.’

‘We recognise that different countries have different data. If we want to scale up a way of measuring an ecosystem service, or transfer values from one country to another, we need a better approach to avoid errors.’

News | 21 April 2016