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People & Ecosystems

This post originally appeared as a guest post on the Google Lat Long Blog WRI was the recipient of a Google Earth Outreach Developer Grant, funded through the Google Inc. Charitable Giving Fund at the Tides Foundation.

Since 1998, WRI has been using GIS (Geographic Information System) models to develop map-based assessments of threats to the world’s coral reefs. Reefs at Risk Revisited, released in February 2011, is the latest assessment in the series and is based on a nearly three-year study that produced the most highly-detailed global maps of coral reef threats to date. The study analyzed and mapped threats to coral reefs from local human activities such as coastal development, unsustainable fishing, and marine and land-based pollution, as well as climate-related threats caused by increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Forested watersheds of the southern United States provide numerous services to the region. At no cost, they purify water, control flooding and erosion, and provide places for people to relax and have fun. Yet despite their value, many watersheds are under threat from development and poor land management.

“Payments for Watershed Services” (PWS) programs are one strategy to keep watersheds healthy. Through a PWS program, landowners receive financial incentives to conserve, sustainably manage, and/or restore watersheds to yield the kinds of benefits described above.

Over the past decade, more companies have recognized the value that healthy ecosystems provide to business. Proactive companies have started managing their connection to ecosystems in order to avoid being blindsided by unexpected risks arising from the degradation of ecosystems.

Today, many managers want to know how ecosystem service considerations can be integrated into business performance systems. This issue is addressed in the World Resources Institute’s new report, Nature in Performance, a guide that helps business managers incorporate ecosystem service considerations into environmental management systems, sustainability reporting, and other performance systems.

This piece was written with Josh Donlan and James Mulligan of Advanced Conservation Strategies.

Hundreds of imperiled wildlife species across the country are candidates for protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), yet landowners currently have very little financial incentive to protect them.

WRI’s new issue brief, Insights from the Field: Forests for Species and Habitat, released jointly with Advanced Conservation Strategies, details the insights from a pilot market-based initiative to conserve one such candidate species, the gopher tortoise, and the southern forests on which it relies. This pilot can serve as a model for conservation across the country, most notably for other ESA candidate species like the lesser prairie chicken and greater sage grouse (see box).

This week, two of my colleagues, Ben Kushner and Lauretta Burke, travelled to Mexico and Belize, respectively, for the launch of a new multinational evaluation of reef management by governments, NGOs, and the private sector. The launch events took place in Belize City, Belize; Cancun, Mexico; Guatemala City, Guatemala; and Tegucigalpa, Honduras; and were the result of nine months of collaboration to develop indicators and gather data for this first-ever eco-audit of the Mesoamerican Reef.

The Mesoamerican Reef, the largest reef in the Atlantic Ocean, is home to over 500 species of fish and harkens back over 225 million years. The research included input from more than 40 organizations and 100 people. WRI provided technical assistance to the Healthy Reefs Initiative and local partners.

Today WRI releases a working paper that provides new information about Indonesia’s moratorium on new forest concessions. Our analysis concludes that the moratorium alone does not significantly contribute to Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emission reduction goal of 26 percent by 2020. However, the moratorium does support these goals in the long-term by “pausing” business-as-usual patterns to allow time for needed governance reforms.

The World Resources Institute and World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) are pleased to announce the release of the Corporate Ecosystem Services Review Version 2.0, an updated guidance document and set of resources to help business managers develop ecosystem-related strategies.

Companies depend on and impact the services that healthy ecosystems provide such as freshwater, wood, water purification, carbon sequestration, pollination and natural hazard protection. Degradation of these “ecosystem services,” therefore, can pose a number of risks to corporate performance, as well as create new business opportunities. Making the connection between the health of ecosystems and the business bottom line is essential – but how?

While much has been written from a theoretical perspective about markets for ecosystem services, few on-the-ground projects currently exist. Yet the projects that do exist provide one of the best windows onto what actually works in practice. That’s why WRI has issued a new brief, Insights from the Field: Forests for Climate and Timber to discuss an innovative initiative called the Carbon Canopy.

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