Natural Corks Perform Ecosystem Services

Thanks to Sarah Kennedy and ChavoBart Digital Media for this story at Yale Climate Connections:

The surprising link between wine corks and climate change

Give a toast to cork forests, which store a great deal of carbon pollution.

If you open a bottle of champagne or wine this New Year’s Eve, take a look at the stopper.

In recent years, plastic stoppers and screw tops have come on the market as alternatives to natural cork, but cork can be better for the climate.

Cork is harvested in the Mediterranean from the bark of cork oak trees. The process does not harm the tree, and the bark regrows. But the first harvest cannot begin until the tree is about 25 years old. Continue reading

Paying for the Birds You See?

Can we put a price tag on birds we see?

Image by the author

I recently came across an Oxford professor’s blog that revolves mostly around conservation and birding, and one of his posts was particularly interesting to me. In it, Professor Paul Jepson discusses the increasing presence of photography in the British birding sphere, and what bird photography means for the hobby of birding/birdwatching. I encourage you to read his article (I’ll put a link below), but will first share one idea that Jepson brings up toward the end of the piece, and which was very thought-provoking:

Bird photography is part of the socio-technological assembly that is shaping futures. If birdwatching is to be a cultural force in the twenty-first century, our bird reserves will need to embrace developments and directions in digital technologies. … My thought experiment imagines a system of pay-for nature hides with an observation tower, like the one in Muritz National Park outside Berlin, as its centre piece. Birding has a strong ‘nature as a public good’ mentality. While many bird photographers agree with this principle, they are also willing to pay for entry to the facilities and special places that enable them to get the shot they desire. Nature hides are popping up across Britain and 2017 hide day rates are £75 for the opportunity to photograph Common Kestrels Falco tinnunculus, £99 for Kingfishers and £150 for Black Grouse.

Although I enjoy taking photos of birds and sharing them online, I do not consider myself a bird photographer, partly because I don’t have the specialized gear (my camera is a point-and-shoot model, though its exceptional 65x optical zoom is useful for bird photos). That being said, Continue reading

Ecosystem Services in Paris Agreement

We’ve reviewed ecosystem services several times over the years, including payment for them, the potential for ecotourism as a service, and we’re glad to read that the idea is becoming popular again with the new Paris Agreement. Kelly Barnett reports for GreenBiz, starting with coverage on the Adaptation Futures conference in Rotterdam:

In just three days here, roughly 40 presentations focused on the subject of “ecosystems and ecosystem based-adaptation,” and they focused on everything from the restoration of salt marshes that protect coastal communities from rising tides to the protection of Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, which supports a massive agricultural economy.

The event comes just two weeks after Earth Day, when 175 countries signed the Paris Agreement to combat climate change   in part by “ensuring the integrity of all ecosystems, including oceans, and the protection of biodiversity, recognized by some cultures as Mother Earth.”

Continue reading

Natural Capital Valuation and Protection of Marine Megafauna

Photo © Fabrice Jaine

I’ve noticed a number of positive and interesting developments as of late in the area of marine species protection, pointing to an increasing recognition, by policymakers, of the value of natural capital and associated ecosystem services, particularly the value arising from ecotourism.

In February of this year, the Government of Indonesia granted full protection to manta rays within its nearly 6 million square kilometer exclusive economic zone (EEZ), making it the world’s largest sanctuary for manta rays. This reverses the trend of the past three decades wherein Indonesia has had the dubious distinction of being home to the world’s largest fishery for sharks and rays. Why the reversal? It seem that studies showing that the ecotourism value of a manta ray is an estimated $1 million over its lifetime, as compared to the onetime value of several hundred dollars for its gill rakers and meat played a key role in persuading policymakers to take action to protect the iconic species.

A few weeks later, the President of Palau announced that the country’s entire 200 nautical mile EEZ will be declared a marine sanctuary and closed to commercial fishing and seabed mining.  This follows a move a few years earlier to declare Palau a shark sanctuary. In explaining the reasoning behind the moves Palau’s president noted that a dead shark is worth several hundred dollars, whereas a live shark is worth $1.9 million in tourism during its life span, and that his country will promote scuba diving, snorkelling and ecotourism as an alternative income to commercial fishing. Continue reading

Paying for Ecosystem Services

Tim Chen has covered ecosystem services as they relate to ecotourism; below I’ve written some additional information on how the process might work on the market.

Sulfur-rich waterfall in Costa Rica

As developing countries increasingly convert natural ecosystems to areas controlled by humans, ecosystem services (e.g., waste absorption, water purification, soil conservation) are being lost. In order to prevent these shifts, people who live in urban areas or have no close relationship with, for example, their sources of drinking water are often willing to pay people who do have direct impacts on the watersheds. Payment for ecosystem services (PES) has become a measure by which higher-resource groups can induce lower-resource communities or individuals to protect local wetlands, forests, or other areas in order to maintain the ecosystem services that support a particular standard of living. Before such payment schemes can be established, however, certain scientific analyses must be carried out to determine the most efficient allocation of resources and facilitate the selection of the right service providers. Continue reading