If we cannot define and quantify Ecosystem Services consistently and systematically – we might be lost!
Imagine that every industrial sector, firm, municipality and state reported and classified their production using different definitions and units - Gross Domestic Product (GDP) would be impossible to calculate! This is precisely the difficult situation in which we find ourselves as we try to construct a “green” GDP that accounts for ecosystem services. Organizations such as the World Bank, the United Nations, the EU and others are working to quantify and classify ecosystem services but without common definitions, solid conceptual foundations or broad acceptance. Progress is difficult to observe.
We can all agree it’s time to take full account of ecosystem services in the multitude of daily decisions society makes. To do so we need to address both the supply (biophysical) and demand (human well-being) side of the issue. Final Ecosystem Goods and Services (FEGS) is a concept that appears to negotiate many of the sticky issues that have stifled progress to date. FEGS connects ecological goods and services to human well-being and focuses on what beneficiaries directly use, consume or appreciate from nature (biophysical features, quantities and qualities with clear relevance to human well-being). Moreover, by working from the beneficiary perspective toward the FEGS, attributes can be identified, metrics and indicators of nature that relate to these goods and services can be measured consistently by ecologists, related to human well-being by social scientists, and valued by economists.
This is an unprecedented, trans-disciplinary approach – just as developing a green GDP is an unprecedented challenge. We need a system to quantify ecosystem services that is definitive, nearly complete and non-duplicative. What is the most appropriate approach to take?