Ecosystem services for multiple outcomes
Ecosystem services are the benefits that humans receive from nature. These benefits are as diverse as clear air to breath, pollination of our food crops, and appealing landscapes in which to spend our time.
At present, the majority of information about the state of ecosystem services comes from the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA), a global assessment of the state of ecosystem services completed in 2005. At a global level, 60% of the ecosystem services assessed are being degraded or used in an unsustainable manner. In addition to the global assessment, there were 18 sub-global assessments conducted. Overall the coverage of these assessments was broad, but New Zealand was not included.
The Ecosystem Services for Multiple Outcomes programme (hereafter, Ecosystem Services Programme) is a 4 year research programme being undertaken at Landcare Research with the aim of assessing current and future ecosystem services in New Zealand, and developing a policy framework under which ecosystem services can be incorporated into decision making. The programme commenced in September 2009 and is funded by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology.
Put another way, through the programme we aim to use our land and natural resources more wisely. We require a framework where all services provided by ecosystems are considered in a coordinated, consistent way by all stakeholders in natural resource planning, policy and decision-making contexts.
What we are aiming to do
At present, there are many decisions governing the use of natural resources in NZ: resource consents, regional/district plans, and national policies. These decisions are made at a variety of scales, are administered by multiple agents, and often focus on a single issue or ecosystem service. Furthermore, the information on which these decisions are made is sparse. This fragmented and unempirical approach threatens NZ’s environmental integrity and has implications on trade, heritage and social well-being. We need to move away from basing decisions entirely on maximising ‘provisioning’ ecosystem services, such as food and fibre, to consideration of a broader range of services critical to NZ’s overall well-being.
In this programme we want to facilitate a shift in from current thinking in the field of natural resource management towards a more unified concept of natural resource management.
The are three objectives in the program: (1) conditions and trends; (2) future scenarios of ecosystem services; and (3) policy and planning. They are interrelated and will provide a holistic view of ecosystem service management in New Zealand.
The programme is being overseen by an expert Science Panel made up of members from the research and industry sectors and from central and local government across New Zealand. Organisations represented are:
DairyNZ, Department of Conservation, Ministry for the Environment, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Environment Bay of Plenty, Environment Canterbury, Environment Waikato, Horizons Regional Council, Foundation for Arable Research, Horticulture NZ, NIWA, and Te Puni Kōkiri.
This programme will run for 4 years with funding from the Foundation for Research Science and Technology.