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Winter 2013

Newsletter Archive


Reflections on Ecosystem Services

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At the Miistakis Institute we like conservation. We think conservation is important. We think plants, animals, healthy soils, clean air and water matter. We think more people should talk about conservation and build it in to their everyday lives.

Miistakis Institute has eight research areas. A prominent one in our current work is Ecosystem Services (ES). We engage in this work because the ES approach offers a way to open the conversation about conservation to a broader audience. Ecosystem services are those services provided by processes in the natural environment that support human well-being. This includes things like habitat for wildlife, important spiritual places, and food. The ecosystem approach to conservation recognizes that as humans we need ecosystem services.

At the end of the last century people like Dr. Robert Costanza did research to understand the economic contribution of the environment on a global scale. In the early 2000s the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment gathered over 1000 experts from around the work to understand the condition and trends in the world’s ecosystems and the services they provide, as well as the scientific basis for action to conserve and use them sustainably. This effort started to mainstream the ES conversation – by helping people recognize that their communities and businesses depend on the environment.

Challenges with an ES approach are that the language used, and the concepts to describe it, can seem complicated. At the basis of it all though is that our human society is dependent on a healthy and functioning environment and when we make decisions to use or alter the environment there are tradeoffs. Using an ES approach can help us understand these trade-offs better and hopefully make decisions to use those services sustainably.

Miistakis’ past and current work related to the ES approach is about increasing peoples’ knowledge of ES and facilitating a dialogue about the application of the ES concept. Our past and current projects in this area include an Ecological Goods and Services Scan for the Alberta North American Waterfowl Management Plan; Grassland Stewardship Conservation Programming – Payment for Ecosystem Services Report; Ecosystem Service Scan for the Crown of the Continent Roundtable; and Ecosystem Services Assessment with Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute. To learn more about our ecosystem services work at Miistakis, please visit our website and click on “Ecosystem Services” in the right-hand tab.