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THEMES
Integrated Ecosystem Assessments

Integrated ecosystem assessments is one of several mainstreaming tools that is available in the Poverty-Environment Action integrated, programmatic approach in recognition that assessments can act as a bridge between science and policy by providing scientific information on the consequences of ecosystem change for human well-being. Assessment findings, when presented in a readily digestible form, can respond to decision makers’ needs for credible information, highlight trade-offs between decision options, and model future prospects to avoid unforeseen long-term consequences.

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005) offers a framework for demonstrating connections between ecosystem services to sustain people’s livelihoods and national economies, and for quantifying their value in monetary terms where possible. An ecosystem assessment provides the connection between environmental issues and people, where ecosystem services include: provisioning services such as providing food, water, timber and fibre; regulating services such as the regulation of climate, floods, disease, wastes and water quality; cultural services such as offering recreational, aesthetic and spiritual benefits; and, supporting services such as soil formation, photosynthesis and nutrient cycling. As a follow-up to the Millennium Assessment , a number of practitioner guidelines and manuals were produced on conducting integrated ecosystem assessments and including the “Ecosystem and Human Well-Being; A Manual for Assessment Practitioners” (2010).

PEI and Poverty-Environment Action have provided support to integrated assessments through regional training of practitioners and technical support to country programmes to undertake an integrated ecosystem assessment. In all cases, focus has been on grounding the ecosystem assessments with a known need identified by decision makers, involving the best available scientists from a range of disciplines, subjecting the assessment findings to rigorous review, and applying the generic methodological steps of

  • assessment of conditions and trends in ecosystems and their services according to social, economic and environmental variables,
  • development of future scenarios as a consequence of plausible changes in driving forces, ecosystem services and human well-being,
  • formulation of response options for improved management of ecosystems for human well-being and pro-poor economic growth.

Increasingly Poverty-Environment Action is emphasising the economic valuation of ecosystem services as an important tool within the integrated assessment process to enable monetary analysis as requested by decision-makers. Similarly, participatory processes enabling effective participation of all stakeholders including vulnerable groups as well as private sector operators are being applied.

 

Achievements and Highlights

Mali: An integrated ecosytem assessment was completed in the Mopti region, eastern Mali, in 2009. Led by the Ministry of Environment and Sanitation, the assessment served to highlight the importance of ecosystem services in particular wetlands for agriculture production and the effects of degradation.

Mauritania, Rwanda, and Tanzania: Integrated ecosystem assessments were undertaken between 2005 and 2011 in specific locations, all centred around water catchments and wetlands, to inform sub-national and national development processes, each with varying degrees of success.The findings concentrated on how the ecosystem assessment methodologies could be tailored to provide information relevant to the policy processes that are the object of mainstreaming efforts, especially reviewing capacity building and knowledge transfer, the assessment process and the methodology.