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Researching a Reimagined ESA: The Continued Need and Opportunity for Voluntary Conservation

Since passage of the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) more than 40 years ago, federal agencies have sought to enhance the engagement of non-federal landowners and managers in recovery actions. An effort to design programs and policies to facilitate voluntary conservation activities under the ESA has been renewed, but the adoption and effectiveness of these activities could be diminished by the lack of data to address three issues. First, landowners and land managers must be motivated to participate in pre-listing and voluntary conservation and to do so at the scale necessary to achieve conservation outcomes. Second, activities need to be effective in promoting conservation. Third, laws and administrative processes must accommodate or facilitate desired approaches. This working paper identifies data needs in each of these three areas, reviews experience with existing voluntary conservation approaches under the ESA, and recommends research and implementation strategies to make voluntary conservation approaches more widespread.

Authors: Christopher S. Galik, Jacob P. Byl, Christian Langpap, and Michael G. Sorice

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Ecosystem Services

Environmental Economics

Working Papers

Building Carbon in America’s Farms, Forests, and Grasslands: Foundations for a Policy Roadmap

In the United States, land carbon offsets nearly 15 percent of economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to half of emissions from the transportation sector. However, the future of this sizable "carbon sink" is uncertain. The latest U.S. assessments disagree on whether land will be a sink or a source in the coming decades, which could make all the difference in whether future climate targets are reached. Despite significant research, a complete understanding of policy or market tools capable of bending the trajectory of the carbon sink remains elusive. This report by Forest Trends and the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions—the first product of the Land Carbon Policy Roadmap Initiative—launches a process for understanding the most significant drivers of land carbon change and the policy tools critical for managing land carbon into the future. It offers new analysis to support a long-term roadmap for enhancing the U.S. land carbon sink, ensuring that healthy and productive landscapes contribute to greenhouse gas reduction goals.

Authors: Emily McGlynn, Christopher Galik, David Tepper, Jerod Myers, and Julie DeMeester

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Ecosystem Services

Land

Climate Change Policy

Sustainability

National

Reports

Managing Risk in Environmental Markets

Environmental markets use voluntary approaches to meet regulatory requirements and to target cost-effective, flexible, and efficient means to achieve environmental results. Although these markets create opportunities, they also involve some risk for regulated buyers, project developers (sellers), landowners, and the public. This paper reviews five types of risk these actors face—technical risk, extreme events, behavioral uncertainty, regulatory uncertainty, and market uncertainty—in four markets that commonly engage agricultural and forest landowners in the United States—wetland and stream mitigation banking, conservation banking, greenhouse gas offsets, and water quality trading. These markets involve transactions that range from annual to permanent transfers of environmental benefits. Thus they entail different risks and liabilities. Given robust risk management strategies and significant similarity across programs there are but a few risk management mechanisms that have yet to be tried in all markets and that present opportunities for improvement. These mechanisms include clarifying rules about how water quality and carbon offsets projects can sell into multiple markets, thereby enhancing flexibility and reducing risk for buyers and sellers. None of the markets currently use but all could consider purchase guarantees to encourage supply generation. Another opportunity may be vertical integration of regulatory programs, in which buyers become project developers to control risk. Finally, water quality trading markets could use credit banks to connect buyers and sellers. These banks might work best if they serve a clearinghouse function, providing market coordination and information.

Author: Lydia Olander

 

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Environmental Markets

Ecosystem Services

Working Papers

Agricultural Support Policy in Canada: What Are the Environmental Consequences?

This paper reviews annual government spending on Canadian agriculture that attempts to stabilize and enhance farm incomes. Since 2010, two-thirds of the $3 billion spent on agriculture went into stabilization programs to support farm incomes. This level of support raises questions about the environmental consequences of enhanced agricultural production. Canadian government expenditures on environmental initiatives in agriculture, as a share of farm income, are more than 10 times smaller than those in the United States and the European Union. Canadian stabilization programs have modest impacts on production, but chemical and fertilizer input use may be higher than in the programs' absence. One possible course of action is to introduce cross-compliance between program payments and environmental objectives. However, there are no requirements that Canadian producers receiving support comply with environmental standards. Although cross-compliance could be considered in the Canadian context, policies that directly target specific environmental issues in agriculture may have greater impact.

Authors: Alison Eagle, James Rude, and Peter Boxall

Filters

Ecosystem Services

Land

Journal Articles

Do Protected Areas Reduce Blue Carbon Emissions? A Quasi-Experimental Evaluation of Mangroves in Indonesia

Mangroves provide multiple ecosystem services such as blue carbon sequestration, storm protection, and unique habitat for species. Despite these services, mangroves are being lost at rapid rates around the world. Using the best available biophysical and socio-economic data, the authors present the first rigorous large-scale evaluation of the effectiveness of protected areas at conserving mangroves and reducing blue carbon emissions in the journal Ecological Economics. The analysis examines the success of protected areas in Indonesia between 2000 and 2010, finding that their use has avoided the loss of 14,000 hectares of mangrove habitat and approximately 13 million metric tons (carbon dioxide equivelent) of blue carbon emissions. 

Authors: Daniela A. Miteva, Brian C. Murray, and Subhrendu K. Pattanayak

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Environmental Markets

Climate and Energy

Oceans and Coasts

Ecosystem Services

Environmental Economics

Blue Carbon

Journal Articles

Best Practices for Integrating Ecosystem Services into Federal Decision Making

Federal agencies take many actions that influence ecosystem conditions and change the provision of ecosystem services valued by the public. To date, most decisions affecting ecosystems have relied on ecological assessments with little or no consideration of the value of ecosystem services. Best practice for ecosystem services assessments is to apply quantitative measures and methods that express both an ecosystem’s capacity to provide valued services and, through those services, social benefit (value). Although preference evaluation methods are well established, their implementation can be infeasible because of time or resource constraints, particularly when new data need to be collected. In such cases, the minimum standard recommended for an ecosystem services assessment is to use measures that go beyond narrative description and that are carefully constructed to reflect the ecosystem’s capacity to provide benefits to society but that stop short of a formal assessment of people’s preferences. These measures of ecosystem services are benefit-relevant indicators (BRIs). Their use ensures that ecosystem services assessments measure outcomes that are demonstrably relevant to human welfare, rather than biophysical measures that might not be relevant to human welfare. If ecosystem service values or BRIs are not used in some manner, ecosystem services are not being assessed, and no direct insights can be drawn about effects on social welfare. This minimum best practice is broadly achievable across agencies and decision contexts with current capacity and resources.

Authors: Lydia Olander, Robert J. Johnston, Heather Tallis, Jimmy Kagan, Lynn Maguire, Steve Polasky, Dean Urban, James Boyd, Lisa Wainger, and Margaret Palmer

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Ecosystem Services

National Ecosystem Services Partnership

Reports

Assessing the Economic Contribution of Marine and Coastal Ecosystem Services in the Sargasso Sea

This report, which was revised April 2015, provides a variety of measures of the Sargasso Sea’s economic value and impact, especially net and gross revenues associated with ecosystem services supported by the sea. It captures just a small portion of these services and does not reflect their complete and total net value. Yet analysis of data on even this small portion suggests that the economic importance of the Sargasso Sea is significant. Economic expenditures and revenues directly or potentially linked to that sea range from tens to hundreds of million of dollars a year.

Authors: L. Pendleton, F. Krowicki, P. Strosser, and J. Hallett-Murdoch, Murdoch Marine

Filters

Oceans and Coasts

Marine Ecosystem Services

Ecosystem Services

Marine

Environmental Economics

Reports

Get the Science Right When Paying for Nature's Services

Payments for Ecosystem Services mechanisms leverage economic and social incentives to shape how people influence natural processes and achieve conservation and sustainability goals. Beneficiaries of nature's goods and services pay owners or stewards of ecosystems that produce those services, with payments contingent on service provision. Integrating scientific knowledge and methods into Payments for Ecosystem Services is critical. Yet many projects are based on weak scientific foundations, and effectiveness is rarely evaluated with the rigor necessary for scaling up and understanding the importance of these approaches as policy instruments and conservation tools. Part of the problem is the lack of simple, yet rigorous, scientific principles and guidelines to accommodate Payments for Ecosystem Services design and guide research and analyses that foster evaluations of effectiveness. The Nicholas Institute's Lydia Olander, along with other scientists and practitioners from government, nongovernment, academic, and finance institutions, propose a set of such guidelines and principles in a new Science article.

Author(s): S. Naeem, J. C. IngramA. VargaT. AgardyP. BartenG. BennettE. BloomgardenL. L. BremerP. BurkillM. CattauC. ChingM. ColbyD. C. CookR. CostanzaF. DeClerckC. FreundT. GartnerR. Goldman-BennerJ. GundersonD. JarrettA. P. KinzigA. KissA. KoontzP. KumarJ. R. LaskyM. MasozeraD. MeyersF. MilanoL. Naughton-TrevesE. NicholsL. OlanderP. OlmstedE. PergeC. PerringsS. PolaskyJ. PotentC. PragerF. QuétierK. RedfordK. SatersonG. ThoumiM. T. VargasS. VickermanW. WeisserD. WilkieS. Wunder

Filters

Ecosystem Services

Environmental Economics

National

Journal Articles

Stakeholder Experience with Voluntary Conservation Measures under the Endangered Species Act

On September 26, 2014, the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University, with funding from the Oak Ridge Associated Universities consortium, convened a half-day meeting in Washington, D.C., at which representatives from private and federal organizations as well as leading ESA researchers discussed stakeholders’ experience with voluntary conservation measures under the Endangered Species Act, data gaps that preclude more widespread implementation of such activities, and research activities necessary to contribute new and vital information. The primary insights from the meeting are that experience with existing voluntary conservation tools under the Endangered Species Act provides a basis for the design of new approaches and that the design process requires a solid foundation of legal, institutional, economic, and empirical, field-based information.

Editor: Christopher Galik

Filters

Adaptation

Ecosystem Services

Proceedings

Federal Resource Management and Ecosystem Services Guidebook

Many of the benefits nature provides to people are poorly accounted for in management decisions because resource managers haven’t had access to materials and tools that support this undertaking. This online-only guidebook developed by the National Ecosystem Services Partnership, federal agencies, and other partners addresses this need. It allows resource managers to better communicate with people about the positive and negative effects of natural resource management decisions. It also helps them explicitly consider how to balance outcomes that matter to people and to avoid unintended consequences.

Editor: Lydia Olander

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Ecosystem Services

National Ecosystem Services Partnership

Reports

Pages