Field evidence that ecosystem service projects support biodiversity and diversify options

Goldman, R.L., H. Tallis, P. Kareiva, and G. Daily. 2008. Field evidence that ecosystem service projects support biodiversity and diversify options. PNAS 105: 9445-9448

Setting aside land for conservation such as in an easement is no longer the only approach to conserve land. Ecosystem services have given conservation agencies a new approach to conserve land by being able to allocate economic and social value to these services. This is the plight that Goldman et al (2008) have proposed. They defend this argument by comparing projects within the Nature Conservancy that were either biodiversity–oriented (i.e., easements, land purchases, etc) or ecosystem service oriented. They found that ecosystem service projects attracted more funding (4 times more) and different funding (corporate vs non-profit) than simple biodiversity projects. However, the difference in funding might be a result of each approach requiring different financing, and while they reported the average financing tools they didn’t relate that to average costs for each project.
Using the project history of the Nature Conservancy to address this issue was a great idea because it allowed the authors to evaluate projects that spanned multiple areas outside the United States, and it provided some good insight into the added value of ecosystem services in funding conservation. I appreciated that the authors didn’t entirely sell ecosystem services to be the “end all; be all” for conservation strategies in spite of their increased funding. The authors highlighted a major limitation to both strategies – lack of monitoring. It is entirely unclear whether either of these strategies is actually helping conserve biodiversity or ecosystem processes that could translate into ecosystem services, which is a crucial piece of information.

Image Info: Loma Ridge, Irvine, CA. This area was managed by TNC until recently as part of an easement from the Irvine Company. Photo: L.Larios

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