Governments, communities, and NGOs share the responsibility of protecting the environment. Governments must work out the legal framework and in many cases be the direct procurers of some ecosystem services (public goods). Community and conservation NGOs must ensure that ecosystem services and PES schemes are pursued with equity
Ecosystems and their “services”
The benefits that people get from nature are known as ecosystem services.
Ecosystem services can be roughly divided into:
* Supporting services – those services creating conditions necessary for the provision of all other ecosystem services, for example photosynthesis or soil formation,
Today, through our activities, we often exploit natural resources, influencing the capacity of ecosystems to provide us with their beneficial services. Agriculture, forestry, fishing, even tourism can be hard for ecosystems to cope with. With our excessive activities we impact air quality, water purification processes, flood control, the Earth’s climate.
Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) is an innovative approach to nature conservation
Payments for Ecosystem Services is the name given to a variety of arrangements through which the beneficiaries of environmental services, from watershed protection and forest conservation to carbon sequestration and landscape beauty, reward those whose lands provide these services with subsidies or market payments. Arranging payments for the benefits provided by forests, fertile soils and other natural ecosystems is a way to recognise their value and ensure that these benefits continue well into the future.
WWF and Payments for Ecosystem Services
On the Lower Danube in Bulgaria, we have identified two possible sites for demonstration projects: the area of Rusenski Lom, in the vicinity of Rusenski Lom Nature Park near the town of Ruse; and Persina Nature Park, a Natura 2000 and a Ramsar site. Both possible project sites are located within the designated area of the Lower Danube Green Corridor. Both nature park administrations are partners to the project. Possible activities and issues in the area of Rusenski Lom are focused on maintaining and enhancing the biodiversity values of Rusenski Lom Nature Park, maintaining existing High Nature Value Farmland, including pastures and meadows; converting some of the arable land along the Rusenski Lom River to grassland; marketing locally produced food and food products from the High Nature Value grasslands and meadows and implementing sustainable forestry management in the park forests.
In Persina Nature Park the main conservation targets are wetlands and fish populations. The PES schemes are planned to accumulate funds for restoration and preservation of wetlands. Private-funded PES schemes will be based on the potential and economic efficiency of use of biomass from wetlands.
Why should businesses care?
Many companies rely on natural resources, and securing the flow of ecosystem services may be directly related to their business’s bottom line. Water companies need functioning ecosystems to maintain water quality. Tourism companies want to preserve the landscapes and wildlife that attract their clients. Other businesses have a considerable environmental impact or produce significant harmful emissions; they may find that paying to increase the flow of ecosystem services (e.g. carbon offsets or biodiversity offsets) is an economical way to neutralise their footprint.
However, caring for the environment and paying for environmental services is not the sole responsibility of the private sector. Governments, communities, and NGOs share the responsibility of protecting the environment. Governments must work out the legal framework and in many cases be the direct procurers of some ecosystem services (public goods). Community and conservation NGOs must ensure that ecosystem services and PES schemes are pursued with equity—balancing the interests of people and nature—to increase job and income opportunities for the rural poor and deliver real, on-the-ground conservation.
Duska Dimovic, WWF