Some of the benefits provided by nature have a clear, recognized, and well-understood economic value (e.g., food and timber production), while others don’t (e.g., water purification, recreation). Continued provision of ecosystem services (especially those lacking clear economic value) and biodiversity in a growing province like Alberta is a big challenge for environmental managers and decision makers. While regulatory approaches will continue to be an important part of Alberta’s environmental management system, market approaches can also promote actions such as restoration and protection, conservation and stewardship. Both regulatory and market approaches need reliable knowledge of where ecosystem services are provided, who benefits, and how they are affected by people and ecological processes.
Sounds straightforward? It’s not. Check out the recent Special Feature in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – while researchers and practitioners from around the world are making great progress, there’s much to learn.
On Wednesday, September 16th, the ABMI’s Ecosystem Services Assessment (ESA) project will host an international science symposium showcasing the state of the science of ecosystem services and offering an opportunity for discussion with experts in the field. We’ve convened several experts to present and discuss the science of ecosystem services, the challenges of applying it, and the opportunities to accelerate progress in Alberta.During an engaging morning of presentations at the University of Alberta, we’ll delve into topics ranging from:
Who benefits from ecosystem services, and how?
Which tools are available to quantify, map, and value ecosystem service flows? Ken Bagstad has published extensively on the development and application of models, including InVest, ARIES and SolVES. What would it take to apply tools like these in Alberta?
The role of interdisciplinary research
Alberta is a social-ecological system. Kai Chan’s interdisciplinary research in ecology, policy, and ethics can improve environmental management and governance of such systems. What are the key questions in this field, and how can we apply what we know?
Emerging capacity in Alberta
Some of the data needed to assess ecosystem services is already available, but there are also some big holes to fill. Tom Habib has integrated existing data into a suite of assessment models for each of Alberta’s seven land use regions. How can we use these models, and what are the next steps?
Accounting for rapid evolutionary change
Understanding evolutionary change in natural populations a fundamental part of the knowledge required to effectively manage our impacts on the environment. Andrew Hendry’s research across the globe shows that surprisingly rapid evolution can occur in the face of environmental change. What does this mean for biodiversity science, conservation, and policy?
The role of institutions
The public and private institutions that shape our interaction with nature are both barriers and opportunities for more effective environmental management. David Hill’s distinguished career as a key advocate for water research, water use policies and irrigation management places him in a unique position to suggest how these institutions can serve us better. Are new institutions needed?
Rangeland ecosystem services
Productive grasslands are the heart of cowboy culture in Alberta, and fuelled the economic growth of the province for decades. Grassland ecologist Majid Iravani has begun to integrate rangeland data and models, and point to opportunities for increasing the suite of benefits from private and public rangelands. What do we already know? What gaps need to be filled?
The value of pollination
The economic value of agricultural production is easy to measure. The contribution of insect pollinators to crop yield? Not so much. Jessamyn Manson’s new research program considers the fascinating but uncertain relationship between native bees and canola. What do we need to know before telling a compelling story about this ecosystem service?
Economics for conservationists
Estimating the economic value of nature, and the trade-offs between alternative uses, is an emerging interdisciplinary field. Robin Naidoo (co)wrote the book on economics for conservationists. What elements of this research can we build on, to accelerate application in Alberta?
Note that the morning symposium and afternoon workshop are currently both sold out, however the morning’s presentations will be available on our website later in the fall.
The ABMI’s Ecosystem Services Assessment project is assessing and mapping ecosystem services across the province of Alberta in order to better understand how management and land use decisions affect the provision of ecosystem services in Alberta. The project is part of a province-wide initiative, the Ecosystem Services Research and Innovation Roadmap, funded and led by Alberta Innovates-Bio Solutions, and also receives funding from the Alberta Livestock Management Agency.