Valuing Ecosystem Services in Bhutan
The three-day symposium starting May 25 seeks to provide a platform to share experiences and knowledge on the valuation of Natural Capital tools in Bhutan and understand how these approaches are incorporated into decision making in the region and across the globe.
Jointly organized by the Watershed Management Division, Department of Forests and Parks Services, Royal Government of Bhutan with support from WWF and World Bank and Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, the meeting aims at sharing key lessons learnt and opportunities in the region and build regional collaboration on both present and future natural capital projects.
The government has initiated the Payment for Environmental Services mechanism locally to support conservation activities to augment the support from the government in priority conservation areas, said Rinzin Dorji the Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, “The Symposium is timely as we embark on the valuation of Bhutan’s natural capital including payment of ecosystem services” he said.
Nature is essential to human wellbeing, said the Country Representative of WWF Bhutan, Dechen Dorji, “From supporting our food production systems to purifying our air and water, to stabilizing our climate and providing us with spiritual sustenance and a host of other benefits, our natural ecosystems are ultimately the source of our health, happiness and material prosperity” he said.
Yet, this natural wealth, our “natural capital”, and the benefits flowing from it, also known as ecosystem services, are often taken for granted or undervalued in decision-making.
Also at the symposium, the Watershed Management Division of the Department of Forests and Park Services and WWF Bhutan launched the first Pilot Report on the Evaluation of Ecosystem Services in the Chamkharchu sub Basin.
The study used the InVEST (Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Tradeoffs) tool, which is one of the modeling tools that helps decision makers visualize the impacts of decisions and helps identify tradeoffs and compatibilities between environmental, economic, and social benefits.
Bhutan is endowed with rich natural capital but information and data on its ecosystem services is limited. As a pilot program, a preliminary study was conducted in central Bhutan in the Chamkharchhu sub-basin using InVEST valuation tool developed by the Natural Capital Project- a collaborative project between Stanford University, WWF, The Nature Conservancy and University of Minnesota. This study represents the first practical application of the InVEST tool in Bhutan for assessing sediment services provided by the watershed in the Chamkharchhu sub basin.
The Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests Rinzin Dorji said that Bhutan’s ecosystem services were estimated to be worth USD 15.5 billion annually with more than half of the benefits flowing out of the country. “Since this is a preliminary assessment undertaken for the first time, we are now embarking on a more detailed valuation of ecosystem services” he said.
More such work remains to be done to quantify the value of our natural capital for informed decisions making to sustainably manage and conserve these natural assets. These assessments are increasingly being considered by governments, development banks and the private sector in guiding their policy setting, investment decisions and business strategies, a trend that is expected to only increase over time….
What are ecosystem services?
If properly managed, ecosystems yield a flow of services that are vital to humanity, including the production of goods (e.g. food), life support processes (e.g. water purification), life-fulfilling conditions (e.g. beauty and recreational opportunities) and the conservation of options (e.g. genetic diversity for future use). Despite their importance, ecosystem services are poorly understood, scarcely monitored, and, in many cases, undergoing rapid degradation and depletion.
WWF is one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. Visit panda.org for news and information.
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