What are ecosystem services?
Everyone in the world depends on the Earth's ecosystem and the services they provide, such as food, water, disease management, climate regulation, spiritual fulfillment and aesthetic enjoyment. These valuable things provided by nature's bounty are often referred to as "ecosystem services."
Land management and conservation continue to evolve as we learn more about the dynamic landscapes and resources that we care for.
In recent years, attention has shifted toward ensuring the sustainability of natural systems, within the context of human activities. People and lawmakers are beginning to see that the costs associated with the depletion of natural systems have long term consequences. Valuing the ecosystem services provided by healthy natural systems is one way to ensure that they will be managed sustainably.
How do ecosystem markets work?
Just like any other marketplace, ecosystem markets work based on supply and demand. Working with a variety of partners to create the demand for a paid supply of these services. The services—clean water, wildlife protection, even carbon storage—have been provided for free. AFF's work is to generate income for forest owners for these services, so they can continue to offer them through healthy and productive forests.
What does that have to do with me and my woods?
Most forestland owners have expenses associated with the ownership and management of land, including property taxes. Many landowners are interested in opportunities available to generate income on their land in ways that mesh with overall ownership goals and objectives.
Some landowners harvest timber, others lease land for hunting, some host recreation sites and some offer protection for endangered species. It often takes a number of these income streams together to help offset land ownership costs. Payments for ecosystem services, such as carbon storage and water filtration, are one way to diversify income streams for forestland owners.
We hear all the time from woodland owners that they would reinvest additional income streams back into their property. If payment for ecosystem services were more widely available, more family forest owners would have the resources to put back into their forestland.
What is American Forest Foundation doing to support ecosystem services that help private landowners?
Well-managed private forestland is critical to protect the diversity of nature and maintain healthy and productive ecosystems across the country. Right now, owners of working forestland are looking for ways to continue their sound stewardship and gain access to the new market opportunities for ecosystem services that are emerging.
AFF co-sponsors the annual national Ecosystem Markets Conference, now in its 4th year. The conference convenes the world’s top thought leaders to not only discuss the state of ecosystem markets, but to tackle the tough issues facing these markets in order to determine how to drive them forward.
AFF has also developed pilot projects to demonstrate different ways that landowners may receive payments for protecting water quality in the northeast, and for creating and maintaining gopher tortoise habitat in the Southeast.
For more information about what AFF is doing to support payment for ecosystem services projects, contact Mary Snieckus at email@example.com