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Tag Archive: ecosystem services

  1. Cattle Ranchers Join Conservationists To Save Endangered Species And Rangelands

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    • To preserve these landscapes for future generations, ranchers need payment and recognition for their ecosystem services “in order to preserve these working landscapes for future generations,” Huntsinger writes.
    • She and other researchers have found that many ranches are better than nature preserves at protecting native plants and animals, partly because ranches are watered and cow manure enriches the soil. California’s Mediterranean-like rangeland, researchers say, provides social and ecological services of natural beauty, biodiversity, environmental stewardship and open space protection and recreation.

    …The partnership between ranchers and conservationists in Idaho is part of a national trend — and one that may help keep ranchers themselves off the endangered species list.

    Cattle ranching is a historic way of life in the West, but it’s under siege, threatened by development, drought, wildfires, a shrinking number of cattle buyers and razor-thin profit margins. But land trusts, conservation easements and payments for ecosystem services (such as wetlands) offer hope that rangelands and their wildlife can survive and even flourish.

    How does this work? Some conservation agencies, like Idaho’s, offer cost-sharing with ranchers, while other Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) cover all the costs or pay ranchers directly for wildlife programs. Ranchers who set land aside in permanent conservation easements receive estate benefits and federal tax savings for up to 15 years. And some land trusts, such as the Ranchland Trust of Kansas, allow ranchers to specify that their grassland legacy continue to be ranched.

    More than a decade ago, a group of ranchers alarmed about vanishing rangelands formed the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition, which united two groups that traditionally viewed each other as enemies. Today nearly a third of the state’s ranchers are working to restore wetlands and meadows and plant native plants….

    ….California has a strong incentive to preserve its 18 million acres of ranchland: Cattle and calves are the state’s fourth-leading agricultural commodities (milk and cream are No. 1), according to state agricultural data. But in a Duke University survey of the state’s ranchers, more than half said they were “more uncertain than ever” that they would be able to continue ranching. California is losing an estimated 20,000 acres of rangeland each year, according to the Nature Conservancy, and on any given day ads for the sale of cattle ranches dot the Internet. The median age of California ranchers is 58 to 62, and more are aging out of the business with no children interested in taking over the ranch.

    But this trend can be reversed, according to Lynn Huntsinger a professor of environmental science and rangeland ecology at UC Berkeley. To preserve these landscapes for future generations, ranchers need payment and recognition for their ecosystem services “in order to preserve these working landscapes for future generations,” Huntsinger writes.

    She and other researchers have found that many ranches are better than nature preserves at protecting native plants and animals, partly because ranches are watered and cow manure enriches the soil. California’s Mediterranean-like rangeland, researchers say, provides social and ecological services of natural beauty, biodiversity, environmental stewardship and open space protection and recreation….

  2. Floodplains for the future: Processes and Management for Ecosystem Services

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    Floodplains: Processes and Management for Ecosystem Services”, published by University of California Press

    • New book on reconciliation ecology, the science of integrating habitat for wild plants and animals into landscapes dominated by people in California and around the world
    • “a future in which people work with natural processes rather than continually fighting them” is in reach
    • related op-ed from the Sacramento Bee (Nov. 26, 2017).

    by Jeff Opperman, Peter Moyle (member Point Blue Science Advisory Committee), Amber Manfree, Eric Larson, Joan Florsheim  Fall 2017

    This past years flooding in Houston and other parts of the world is a reminder of the great damages that floods cause when the defenses of an urban area are overwhelmed.   However, these floods are a stark reminder of the increasing vulnerability of urban areas across the world and the need for comprehensive strategies to reduce risk.  The evidence is clear that that floodplains managed for multiple services can reduce flood risk for many people while also promoting a range of other benefits, including increased biodiversity.

    Unfortunately, climate change models tell us that floods will become bigger and more frequent in the future because warmer oceans will create bigger storms over wider areas.  For thousands of years, the general approach to handling floods has been to contain them with walls, levees, and dams, because people have wanted safe access to rich floodplain soils for farming and flat land for cities.  Responses to flooding have generally been couched in terms of fighting or controlling floods, at huge cost and occasional massive failures.  Today, the emphasis is slowly changing to flood management, where “green infrastructure”, such as flood bypass systems, not only reduces flood risks but creates habitat for fish and wildlife, supports farming, and provides open space for recreation.

    We think the world needs a lot more such green infrastructure to meet the forecasted challenges and to support floodplain ecosystems that can also function for conservation, farming and recreation. Engineered floodplains are a prime opportunity for multi-benefit outcomes. We have documented this trend, and reasons why green infrastructure works so well, in a new book. It is called “Floodplains: Processes and Management for Ecosystem Services”, published by University of California Press (https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/15e156cb327b808a).

    Our focus is reconciliation ecology, the science of integrating habitat for wild plants and animals into landscapes dominated by people. The book is based on our many years of studying floodplains in California, which is a leader in using floodplains for flood management.  But we also venture to other regions, especially Europe, Australia, and Asia, for new insights.   Towards the end, we provide 15 maxims to guide flood management such as “A bigger flood is always possible than the biggest experienced so far.”   We end with the following statement:

    “We take heart from the huge flocks of migratory white geese and black ibis that congregate annually on California floodplains and from knowing that, beneath the floodwaters, juvenile salmon are swimming, feeding, and growing among cottonwoods and rice stalks, before heading out to sea. We can envision greatly expanded floodplains that are centerpieces of many regions, protecting people but also featuring wildlands, wildlife, and floodplain-friendly agriculture. Connectivity among floodplains, people and wild creatures is within reach, as is a future in which people work with natural processes rather than continually fighting them.” (p. 218).

    ORDER ONLINE AND SAVE 30% ucpress.edu/9780520294103
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  3. Natural climate solutions can provide up to 37% of emissions reductions needed by 2030

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    • Nature-based solutions such as tree planting, protecting peatlands and better land management could account for 37% of all cuts needed by 2030 to keep global temperature increases below 2C, says study (see GuardianUK article about this study here)

    Bronson Griscom et al. Natural Climate Solutions. PNAS (Proceedings of the Ntional Academy of Sciences, US). October 17 2018 doi: 10.1073/pnas.1710465114

    Most nations recently agreed to hold global average temperature rise to well below 2 °C. We examine how much climate mitigation nature can contribute to this goal with a comprehensive analysis of “natural climate solutions” (NCS): 20 conservation, restoration, and/or improved land management actions that increase carbon storage and/or avoid greenhouse gas emissions across global forests, wetlands, grasslands, and agricultural lands. We show that NCS can provide over one-third of the cost-effective climate mitigation needed between now and 2030 to stabilize warming to below 2 °C. Alongside aggressive fossil fuel emissions reductions, NCS offer a powerful set of options for nations to deliver on the Paris Climate Agreement while improving soil productivity, cleaning our air and water, and maintaining biodiversity.

    Abstract: Better stewardship of land is needed to achieve the Paris Climate Agreement goal of holding warming to below 2 °C; however, confusion persists about the specific set of land stewardship options available and their mitigation potential. To address this, we identify and quantify “natural climate solutions” (NCS): 20 conservation, restoration, and improved land management actions that increase carbon storage and/or avoid greenhouse gas emissions across global forests, wetlands, grasslands, and agricultural lands. We find that the maximum potential of NCS—when constrained by food security, fiber security, and biodiversity conservation—is 23.8 petagrams of CO2 equivalent (PgCO2e) y−1 (95% CI 20.3–37.4). This is ≥30% higher than prior estimates, which did not include the full range of options and safeguards considered here. About half of this maximum (11.3 PgCO2e y−1) represents cost-effective climate mitigation, assuming the social cost of CO2 pollution is ≥100 USD MgCO2e−1 by 2030. Natural climate solutions can provide 37% of cost-effective CO2 mitigation needed through 2030 for a >66% chance of holding warming to below 2 °C. One-third of this cost-effective NCS mitigation can be delivered at or below 10 USD MgCO2−1. Most NCS actions—if effectively implemented—also offer water filtration, flood buffering, soil health, biodiversity habitat, and enhanced climate resilience. Work remains to better constrain uncertainty of NCS mitigation estimates. Nevertheless, existing knowledge reported here provides a robust basis for immediate global action to improve ecosystem stewardship as a major solution to climate change.

    From the text:

    Our assessment of the potential contribution of NCS to meeting the Paris Agreement is conservative in three ways. First, payments for ecosystem services other than carbon sequestration are not considered here and could spur cost-effective implementation of NCS beyond the levels we identified. Natural climate solutions enhance biodiversity habitat, water filtration, flood control, air filtration, and soil quality (Fig. 1) among other services, some of which have high monetary values (3436) (see SI Appendix, Table S5 for details). Improved human health from dietary shifts toward plant-based foods reduce healthcare expenses and further offset NCS costs (37).

    Second, our findings are conservative because we only include activities and greenhouse gas fluxes where data were sufficiently robust for global extrapolation. For example, we exclude no-till agriculture (Conservation Agriculture pathway), we exclude improved manure management in concentrated animal feed operations (Nutrient Management pathway), we exclude adaptive multipaddock grazing (Grazing pathways), and we exclude soil carbon emissions that may occur with conversion of forests to pasture (Avoided Forest Conversion pathway). Future research may reveal a robust empirical basis for including such activities and fluxes within these pathways.

    Third, the Paris Agreement states goals of limiting warming to “well below 2 °C” and pursuing “efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C.” Our analysis specifies a >66% chance of holding warming to just below 2 °C (30). Additional investment in all mitigation efforts (i.e., beyond ∼100 USD MgCO2−1), including NCS, would be warranted to keep warming to well below 2 °C, or to 1.5 °C, particularly if a very likely (90%) chance of success is desired.

    Read TNC’s post on this publication: Nature’s Make or Break Potential for Climate Change

    • New study shows we’ve been underestimating nature’s role in tackling climate change

    …Forest loss accounts for 8 to 10 percent of carbon emissions globally; tropical rainforests ….work as massive carbon sinks and are home to many of the world’s indigenous people and endangered species.  But other global ecosystems and managed lands—from farmlands and peatlands to seagrass and tidal marshes—have garnered less attention from climate regulators, both as a source of emissions and a potential mitigation solution….

     

    https://thought-leadership-production.s3.amazonaws.com/2017/10/16/14/01/00/b0c73b16-d91a-46ec-83b9-a2bdfda9aaba/Infographic%20Natural%20Climate%20Solutions,%2020%20Pathways.png

  4. Paying people to protect forests is worth it to reduce deforestation, carbon emissions

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    Posted: 20 Jul 2017 11:23 AM PDT  see full ScienceDaily article here

    A new study suggests that paying people to conserve their trees could be a highly cost-effective way to reduce deforestation and carbon emissions and should be a key part of the global strategy to fight climate change. The study sought to evaluate how effective ‘Payments for Ecosystems’ (PES) is at reducing deforestation.

    …the study applies the method of field experiments, or randomized controlled trials, to the question of how effective PES is. The study design helped the researchers accurately measure the averted deforestation caused by the program…

    The findings highlight the advantages of focusing on developing countries when working to reduce global carbon emissions. While the benefit of conserving a tree is the same regardless of the location, paying individuals to conserve forests in developing countries like Uganda is less expensive, making it cheaper to reduce overall emissions

    Seema Jayachandran, Joost de Laat, Eric F. Lambin, Charlotte Y. Stanton, Robin Audy, Nancy E. Thomas. Cash for carbon: A randomized trial of payments for ecosystem services to reduce deforestation. Science, 2017; 357 (6348): 267 DOI: 10.1126/science.aan0568

     

  5. Birds avoid crossing roads to prevent predation

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    Why didn’t the bird cross the road? Because it was afraid of predators and venturing into another bird’s territory

    Posted: 19 Jul 2017 07:05 AM PDT  see full ScienceDaily article here

    It was once believed that roads posed no problem to birds because of their ability to fly. A new study finds that they can find these human-made structures problematic, especially small, forest-dwelling species. Their hesitance to cross roads could restrict their positive effects on the natural environment, such as seed dispersal, pollination and insect control….

    …The authors of the study strongly advise that measures are put in place to connect fragments of forest across roads, allowing wildlife to move freely…”There are wildlife-friendly solutions to many of these issues, such as specially-designed overpasses, fauna underpasses and fencing so animals can avoid accessing the road, all of which need to be incorporated into the design of our road systems. Further studies should look at the impacts of man-made breaks in vegetation, such as forest tracks and park walkways on bird movements,” adds Professor Jones. “We are currently using our data to identify the ‘at risk’ bird species within suburban areas, to assist with conservation management.”

    Christopher D. Johnson, Daryl Evans, Darryl Jones. Birds and Roads: Reduced Transit for Smaller Species over Roads within an Urban Environment. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 2017; 5 DOI: 10.3389/fevo.2017.00036

  6. How to Feed the World Without Killing the Planet?

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    • How can we balance demand for agricultural products with biodiversity protection?

    By July 7, 2017 The Nature Conservancy  read full blog article here

    ….Agriculture contributes one-third of greenhouse gas emissions, uses 70% of freshwater resources, and harms wildlife through conversion and fragmentation of biodiversity-rich habitats, water diversions, pesticide poisoning and creation of oceanic dead zones.1–3 And, as the human population grows and becomes more affluent, demand for food production is increasing, especially for luxury products that are more environmentally demanding.4 How can we balance demand for agricultural products with biodiversity protection?

    This question has prompted the land-sparing land-sharing debate.5–7 Land-sparing advocates argue that intensifying agriculture to produce higher yields is a necessary first condition to allow agriculture to contract to a smaller land footprint, providing opportunities for “sparing land for nature.”…The fallacy of the land-sparing land-sharing debate is its seductive simplicity.14….That logic is: ‘Biodiversity fares poorly in agriculture, therefore we must make agriculture as high-yielding as possible, to spare land for nature.’…

    The most immediate way to prevent further agricultural expansion into natural habitats is to have strong environmental policies and governance that prevents the expansion. Over the longer term, however, we can prevent further agricultural expansion by reducing consumption, and its companions, waste and inequity.32 Such solutions are not politically popular because they push back against the growth economy; yet there are three obvious places to start that could yield huge dividends for biodiversity and for current and future quality of life.

    • First, we could reduce meat consumption and the large land area that is devoted to producing it…Reducing meat consumption by those who eat too much, stabilizing it at current levels for those who are eating the right amount (about the size of a pack of cards per capita per day),33 and increasing access to meat for the 2 billion people who suffer from iron-deficient anemia,37 could help to solve several global disease crises at once. Finally, re-integrating livestock into smallholder farms could help to reduce nutrient overloads produced at contained animal feeding operations, reduce the overuse of antibiotics in livestock, and return critical nutrients to the soil and to the diets of small-holder or subsistence farmers.
    • Second, we could reduce the current wastage of 30 – 50% of the food that is produced annually….
    • Third, the growing human population also increases consumption — but we could stabilize human populations at lower levels than currently projected by meeting the unmet need for family planning.42,43 Many families wish to reduce the number of births, but do not have the means to do so. If these unmet needs for limiting reproduction could be met, human population could potentially stabilize at 6 – 7 billion people instead of the 9 – 13 billion people currently projected for 2100.44,45….

    FARMING FOR THE FUTURE

    ….Assuming that we could stabilize the existing agricultural land footprint primarily by reducing consumption (as described above) and creating strong environmental policies and governance that ensure nature protection, how should we farm in a manner most compatible with biodiversity conservation?

    …promote wildlife dispersal between protected areas to reduce long-term negative effects of isolation…by strategically restoring or protecting corridors of native vegetation surrounded by or interlocked with the most hospitable types of agricultural habitats, such as agroforestry,49 silvopastoral50 or other diversified agroecological systems,51 as has been proposed for the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor.52

    …Use agroecological methods in the agricultural matrix that rely on the underlying biodiversity and ecosystem services,

    …Maintain productive, sustainable agriculture that supports livelihoods of local people living in the vicinities of protected areas. Agro-ecological methods, such as agroforestry, integrated pest management, and livestock integrationimpacts of agriculture on adjacent habitats and downstream regions….these agroecological methods increase resilience to drought, pests, diseases, floods, hurricanes and climate change,51,71–73 and help to preserve the sustainability of the system, by maintaining soil organic matter, water infiltration and holding-capacity, pest and disease control, pollination services, etc.41

    …Invest in agroecological and agronomic research and development to improve yields in diversified systems (with low reliance on external chemical inputs) in different cropping systems and regions.

    Conservationists should instead focus on other research questions and actions that will affect biodiversity conservation more directly….There is an urgent need to understand how different types of agriculture, as well as other matrix types,78 affect the dispersal capacities of wildlife. ..it is critical to determine which agricultural methods create the fewest negative spillover effects into adjacent natural habitats.

    Finally, incorporating socio-economic studies and participatory research can aid in focusing research questions on outcomes that can help inform pragmatic strategies appropriate to the conservation and agriculture needs of a given region.14,52 These types of studies, and others,14 would help to guide specific conservation actions to reconcile biodiversity conservation with agriculture….

  7. To what extent can ecosystem services motivate protecting biodiversity?

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    • New model marries ecology, economics to determine how to protect biodiversity by managing ecosystem services

    June 28, 2017 University of California – Santa Barbara see full ScienceDaily article here

    ….What financial value should be ascribed to, say, plants that improve water quality or wetlands that reduce flooding and property damage from storms? Many ecology and conservation organizations advocate for making such determinations in the interest of land management. Conservation biologists, meanwhile, argue that putting a price tag on nature could weaken the protection of threatened species that have a lower dollar value.

    Therein lies the core issue in the debate: To what degree will biodiversity be protected by managing for ecosystem services?

    To address this question, a team of UC Santa Barbara researchers has developed a new modeling framework that blends a novel mix of ecology and economics. Their findings appear in the journal Ecology Letters.

    ….The team’s framework generates simple criteria for determining how much the value of the service must exceed the costs of management to financially justify protecting all species. This defines the settings whereby protecting all species is the economically optimal choice. The group examined this criterion for six different services and ecosystems, ranging from the pollination of watermelon to carbon storage along coastlines or in tropical dry forests.

    In some cases, protecting all species in an ecosystem is financially motivated. In others, management solely for financial benefits may leave many species at risk.

    Our results define when managing for ecosystem services alone could leave significant biodiversity unprotected,” Dee explained. “The analysis also helps identify when additional policies such as endangered species regulation will be needed to avoid biodiversity losses.”

    Laura E. Dee, Michel De Lara, Christopher Costello, Steven D. Gaines. To what extent can ecosystem services motivate protecting biodiversity? Ecology Letters, 2017; DOI: 10.1111/ele.12790

    Abstract: Society increasingly focuses on managing nature for the services it provides people rather than for the existence of particular species. How much biodiversity protection would result from this modified focus? Although biodiversity contributes to ecosystem services, the details of which species are critical, and whether they will go functionally extinct in the future, are fraught with uncertainty. Explicitly considering this uncertainty, we develop an analytical framework to determine how much biodiversity protection would arise solely from optimising net value from an ecosystem service. Using stochastic dynamic programming, we find that protecting a threshold number of species is optimal, and uncertainty surrounding how biodiversity produces services makes it optimal to protect more species than are presumed critical optimal. We define conditions under which the economically optimal protection strategy is to protect all species, no species, and cases in between. We show how the optimal number of species to protect depends upon different relationships between species and services, including considering multiple services. Our analysis provides simple criteria to evaluate when managing for particular ecosystem services could warrant protecting all species, given uncertainty. Evaluating this criterion with empirical estimates from different ecosystems suggests that optimising some services will be more likely to protect most species than others.

  8. Human impacts on biodiversity and resulting loss of ecosystem services

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    May 31 2017  full ScienceDaily article here

    …coauthors from eight countries on four continents provide an overview of what we know and still need to learn about the impacts of habitat destruction, overhunting, the introduction of nonnative species, and other human activities on biodiversity.

    In addition, they summarize previous research on how biodiversity loss affects nature and the benefits nature provides –– for example, a recent study showing that reduced diversity in tree species in forests is linked to reduced wood production. Synthesizing findings of other studies, they estimate that the value humans derive from biodiversity is 10 times what every country in the world put together spends on conservation today — suggesting that additional investments in protecting species would not only reduce biodiversity loss but provide economic benefit, too.

    “Human activities are driving the sixth mass extinction in the history of life on Earth, despite the fact that diversity of life enhances many benefits people reap from nature, such as wood from forests, livestock forage from grasslands, and fish from oceans and streams,” said Isbell, who served as lead author the paper. “It would be wise to invest much more in conserving biodiversity.”…

    Forest Isbell, Andrew Gonzalez, Michel Loreau, Jane Cowles, Sandra Díaz, Andy Hector, Georgina M. Mace, David A. Wardle, Mary I. O’Connor, J. Emmett Duffy, Lindsay A. Turnbull, Patrick L. Thompson, Anne Larigauderie. Linking the influence and dependence of people on biodiversity across scales. Nature, 2017; 546 (7656): 65 DOI: 10.1038/nature22899

    Abstract: Biodiversity enhances many of nature’s benefits to people, including the regulation of climate and the production of wood in forests, livestock forage in grasslands and fish in aquatic ecosystems. Yet people are now driving the sixth mass extinction event in Earth’s history. Human dependence and influence on biodiversity have mainly been studied separately and at contrasting scales of space and time, but new multiscale knowledge is beginning to link these relationships. Biodiversity loss substantially diminishes several ecosystem services by altering ecosystem functioning and stability, especially at the large temporal and spatial scales that are most relevant for policy and conservation.

  9. Measuring ecosystem services in Sonoma County

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    Using InVEST to assess ecosystem services on conserved properties in Sonoma County, CA

    Van Butsic et al California Agriculture 71(2):81-89. DOI: 10.3733/ca.2017a0008. Published online April 12, 2017
    ABSTRACT
    Purchases of private land for conservation are common in California and represent an alternative to regulatory land-use policies for constraining land use. The retention or enhancement of ecosystem services may be a benefit of land conservation, but that has been difficult to document.
    The InVEST toolset provides a practical, low-cost approach to quantifying ecosystem services. Using the toolset, we investigated the provision of ecosystem services in Sonoma County, California, and addressed three related questions.
    • First, do lands protected by the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District (a publicly funded land conservation program) have higher values for four ecosystem services — carbon storage, sediment retention, nutrient retention and water yield — than other properties?
    • Second, how do the correlations among these services differ across protected versus non-protected properties?
    • Third, what are the strengths and weaknesses of using the InVEST toolset to quantify ecosystem services at the county scale?
    We found that District lands have higher service values for carbon storage, sediment retention and water yield than adjacent properties and properties that have been developed to more intensive uses in the last 10 years. Correlations among the ecosystem services differed greatly across land-use categories, and these differences were driven by a combination of soil, slope and land use. While InVEST provided a low-cost, clearly documented way to evaluate ecosystem services at the county scale, there is no ready way to validate the results.

     

  10. Climate-Smart Land Trusts: Accelerating Nature-Based Solutions to Secure our Future

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    The California Council of Land Trusts hosted the 2017 California Land Conservation Conference from March 7-9, 2017 at UC Davis.

    Ellie Cohen, Point Blue President and CEO was a keynote speaker.  A pdf of Ellie’s presentation can be found here: Accelerating Nature-Based Solutions- Climate-Smart Land Trusts CCLT Keynote March 7 2017

    You can see a pdf of the full program here.