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New ‘toolkit’ puts value on ecosystems



A collaborative project is aiming to measure the value of different ecosystems using a ‘toolkit’. It is hoped the project will improve decision making in regards to land use.

Dr Francine Hughes, reader in animal and environmental biology at Anglia Ruskin University, said, “Nature provides people with many benefits, for example harvested goods such as timber or medicinal products from forests, clean water or recreational opportunities and a feeling of wellbeing.

“These benefits are often called ‘ecosystem services’ and though it is easy to talk about them, it is very difficult to measure them or to put economic value on them.”

The toolkit allows protected areas, including ones that could be under threat, to be assessed and demonstrate their value. Where possible, the value is shown in monetary terms allowing the worth to be relatable.

It also offers a comparison, showing what the value of the area would be if it were no longer protected. Hughes described this as the toolkit’s “greatest strength”.

She said, “The use of the toolkit will vary depending on location. It is a way of giving protected area managers another arsenal in their kit.”

She added that the toolkit would give a “more balanced view” of land use and its value.

Scientists at Anglia Ruskin University, alongside experts from the University of Cambridge, the University of Southampton, BirdLife International, the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre, and the RSPB, created the Toolkit for Ecosystem Service Site-based Assessments (TESSA).

TESSA currently covers five classes of service: global climate regulation, water-related services, harvested wild goods, cultivated goods and nature-based recreation.

An additional three modules on pollination, cultural services and costal protection are expected to be added in the future.

Further reading:

Why we can’t afford to lose ecosystem services

Only 21% of British children ‘connected to nature’

State of Nature report reveals alarming UK wildlife loss

Success means seeing ourselves as part of the bigger system

Scientist disappointed with government’s protection of seas