The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) was a four-year international effort from 2001-2005 that assessed the conditions and trends of the world’s ecosystems, and the links to human well-being. To date, the MA represents the best scientific description of ecosystem change due to human activities. Among its findings: 60 percent of the ecosystem services it examined (see the following table) are being degraded or used unsustainably.
Ecosystem Services Degraded Mixed Enhanced Provisioning Capture fisheries
Regulating Air quality regulation
Regional and local climate regulation
Natural hazard regulation
Water regulation (for example, flood protection)
Carbon sequestration Cultural Spiritual and religious values
Recreation and ecotourism
From Restoring Nature’s Capital: An Action Agenda to Sustain Ecosystem Services, WRI, 2007.
Nearly two years since the release of the MA findings, several new and forthcoming publications are following up on the landmark effort.
- WRI will release Restoring Nature’s Capital: An Action Agenda to Sustain Ecosystem Services in April 2007.
- WRI will release Integrating Ecosystem Services into Development Decisions: A Guide for Decision Makers in Summer 2007.
- Separately, the UK government has released a report on the MA’s impact on policymaking, and Island Press released the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment: A Toolkit for Understanding and Action.
Restoring Nature’s Capital
The forthcoming WRI report looks at how governance is critical to sustainable, healthy ecosystems, drawing on insights of 17 contributing authors. Its action agenda identifies how policymakers’ decisions on development projects and investments can lead to healthy ecosystem services. The report will be useful for businesses, governments, and civil society in taking practical measures towards reversing ecosystem degradation.
The UK House of Commons’ Report
The Environmental Audit Committee’s first report on the MA recommends that the UK government fully integrate the MA into its work. “We are concerned that the government has not yet acted proportionately to the scale of the challenges identified in the MA,” the report concludes, based on, among others, the following findings:
- The UK government should act urgently to ensure that the environment is not damaged by policies in areas as diverse as planning, transport, taxation, and trade. Long-term economic benefits are likely to be great, and economic growth should not be judged solely on the basis of GDP.
- Many governments around the world have been slow to grasp the importance of the MA, and many development NGOs have failed to engage enough with the MA findings.
- The UK government must encourage more international action, specifically through establishment of a “Millennium Ecosystem Fund” and an ongoing international MA program.
- The government must do more in the UK, specifically by introducing an economic indicator that reflects society’s happiness, reversing the 240 species currently threatened by extinction in the UK’s overseas territories, and conducting a full UK-specific MA-type assessment.
The MA Toolkit from Island Press
Millennium Ecosystem Assessment: A Toolkit for Understanding and Action provides a toolkit of valuable resources on the MA, including:
- A quick and helpful overview of the MA and its key findings
- Resources to help communities and organizations bring the MA to practical use
- 13 case studies of how people around the world are using the principles of the MA to protect natural systems:
- Preserving the cloud forest in Guatemala
- Determining the worth of a coral reef in Trinidad & Tobago, St. Lucia and Belize
- Saving a watershed by working with neighbors upstream in India
- Helping corporations assess the global business risks and opportunities of ecosystem change
- Making the links between poverty and ecosystem services in Kenya and Uganda
- Making biodiversity pay for local communities in India
- A new partnership to restore degraded wetlands in the United States
- A U.S. legislative commission on global environment
- Researching the connections between ecosystems and human well-being in Minnesota
- A national commitment to conservation in Costa Rica
- Shrinking “dead zones” in the U.S. by using a trading tool to limit nutrient pollution
- SmithBarney/Citigroup is using global financial markets to create and reward good change
- Promoting land conservation globally through demonstrated economic benefit