Mainstreaming natural capital into decision-making

ID-10033243On the 31st October 2013, Gretchen Daily, Professor of Environmental Science, Stanford Woods, presented her experiences and research on how we can harmonise agriculture and biodiversity conservation through quantifying the value of ecosystem services and developing policy and finance mechanisms that enable the integration of human needs and environmental protection.

Undertaking the Humanitas Visiting Professorship in Sustainability Studies, the seminar was the first in a series of talks by Prof. Daily at the University of Cambridge.

Prof Daily began by showing a picture of a tea plantation in Uganda surrounded by cloud forest. Her work encompasses the ways in which we can value the natural habitats surrounding human-modified landscapes so that they can become part of decision-making processes. Achieving global food security while protecting natural systems is crucial both for human well-being and to help us avoid the catastrophic changes in the Earth’s systems that are predicted.

In a small-scale study in Costa Rica, Prof. Daily and colleagues investigated the value of biodiversity-driven benefits for coffee production to illuminate how important biodiversity is for agriculture. Coffee is competing with petroleum for the biggest export from developing countries. The forests surrounding the small-scale coffee plantations the team investigated were found to harbour some 700 bee species, 150 bird species and 70 bat species. The pollination boost these species provided was valued at $60,000 per year, 10% of the annual income from one farm while the pest control services were worth some $10,000 per year. Pest control services were particularly important in controlling a rapidly spreading pest of coffee, the coffee berry borer, which can wipe out up to 75% of yield and to which there are no pesticide or other chemical interventions available yet. To date there has been no awareness of these dimensions of the value of surrounding biodiversity and more needs to be done to quantify them at a scale relevant to human activities. [Read more…]