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2010/9 E3B Graduate Seminar - Ecological Foundations of Payment for Ecosystem Service Schemes (New York, USA)

by Rose Hessmiller last modified Jan 31, 2013 09:23 PM
Contributors: The Earth Institute, Columbia University, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)
E3B Graduate Seminar, Fall 2010. Department of Ecology, Evolution & Environmental Biology (E3B), Columbia University, New York, NY. This seminar was a collaboration between The Earth Institute, Columbia University and the Wildlife Conservation Society and was supported by USAID through the TransLinks cooperative agreement.
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Prof. Shahid Naeem, Department of Ecology, Evolution & Environmental Biology (E3B), Columbia University
Dr. Carter Ingram, Wildlife Conservation Society
Paige Olmsted, Center for Environmental Research and Conservation (CERC) The The Earth Institute, Columbia University

Course Overview

The global proliferation of  Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES)  schemes has brought ecosystem services to the attention of many governments, businesses, and other groups who have not been traditionally associated with conservation. The design and implementation of PES schemes, however, has focused largely on social issues such as property rights, contract design, negotiation processes, risk allocation, and public participation while paying less attention to ecological issues such as population viability, community ecology, ecosystem functioning, and much more. While there is a considerable body of literature on the ecological foundations of ecosystem services, it has not been integrated consistently into PES schemes.

This lack of integration begs the question of how effective many PES schemes can be in securing ecosystem services, providing consistent economic benefits to landowners, and promoting conservation over the long term if PES schemes are not based on the foundations of ecology.

The objective of this course was to explore the ecological foundation of PES schemes and examine the degree to which current PES schemes from around the world incorporate ecological science in their planning, development, and monitoring. The course reviewed PES schemes, developed an ecological framework for PES, and then evaluated existing PES schemes against this framework. It addressed questions such as: Are the majority of existing PES schemes consistent with ecological principles? If not, which kinds of PES schemes are ecologically well designed and which are not? What are the likely outcomes of a PES scheme if it does not have an ecologically sound foundation? What recommendations can we make for integrating ecological principles into PES schemes.



Class Description

Week 1

What is PES?

Introduction to the concept of PES and the natural science foundations of ecosystem services. Presentations and briefing on overview of course and anticipated goals.

PowerPoint: Ecosystem Services and Payments for Ecosystem Services at WCS

PowerPoint: Payments for Ecosystem Services: some brief background and resource materials

Week 2

What is PES? - cont'

Students divided into the following teams to review these classes of ecosystem services tentatively designated as:

1. Carbon

2. Water

3. Biodiversity (including all wildlife related services, e.g. Pollination, tourism, etc.)

PowerPoint: Ecosystem Services and PES - Week 2: Definitions and Refinement

Week 3

Representative cases for each class of PES

Each team provides an overview of cases in their class. They will address

1. Is there sufficient depth of information in case studies for analyses?

2. How well are PES schemes doing in delivering services?

3. How do the different classes compare (which are doing well, which are doing poorly, which are well developed, which are poorly structured, etc.)?

Week 4

PES as an effective conservation tool

What are the pros and cons of PES as a tool in conservation? Each team will consider:

1. Synergies and tradeoffs between economic and ecological objectives of PES

2. Risks of PES as a conservation tool

3. How to handle multiple services; stacking and bundling services

Week 5

Developing an ecological framework for PES schemes

We will begin to develop an ecological framework for PES schemes. Review of similar past projects to look at construction of an appropriate framework. We will focus on key elements such as such as monitoring ecosystem services, evaluation methods, and management plans (i.e., is it static, adaptive, ecologically sound?).

1. Are some services more amenable to PES schemes than others?

2. What is the importance of baseline ecological data for managing, monitoring, and evaluation?

3. How do we consider “service flux” between systems or over time?

4. How does one measure ecosystem services – in isolation, as interactive sets?

Week 6

PES and Ecosystem Restoration in Haiti

Guest Lecture by Alex Fischer of CIESIN and the Haiti Restoration Project. UNEP is leading a wide scale (multi-decadal, $200 million) restoration program focusing on one watershed in southern Haiti. The class will hear about proposed plans as well as consider the feasibility of PES in the region, or what factors should be investigated to consider PES as the project is in early phases.

Week 7

No Class

Students will prep 2-3 page research summary based on preliminary investigation of existing state of PES data availability.

Week 8

Presentations of Preliminary Results

Collective discussion surrounding methodology and results, within the context of what is required for per-review publication (to be led by Dr. Naeem). These considerations used to further adapt the framework for assessment.

PowerPoint: Preliminary Results

Week 9

Presentation and Discussion of Methods and Results

Collective discussion surrounding methodology and results, within the context of what is required for per-review publication (to be led by Dr. Naeem). These considerations used to further adapt the framework for assessment.

PowerPoint: Payments for Ecosystem Services - Biodiversity

Week 10

Evaluating current PES schemes from the perspective of an ecological framework

Now that we have an ecological framework, we can ask the following questions for each PES scheme in the set of schemes we have collected. This week will be devoted to narrowing the questions we will address in this exercise. Questions we might ask of each PES scheme are:

1. Are there scientific or ecological indicators in the PES scheme and what role do they serve?

2. Were baseline ecological data collected? If not, how does it affect the likely success of a PES scheme?

3. How does one define or evaluate success of a PES scheme?

4. Are services in a PES scheme being measured correctly? For example, is each service being measured in isolation of others even though they interact with one another? Is the same service being measured across different ecosystems?

5. Are the most “successful” projects environmentally sustainable based on ecological principles?

PowerPoint: Ecological Foundations of Payments for Ecosystem Services

Week 11

Establishing Criteria

Based on activities/discussions of previous week, establish universal, specific criteria for assessing and evaluating all PES case studies for analysis within the context of the ecological principles.

Week 12-13

Refinement and revisiting of cases

Simultaneous drafting of introductions, methods, results, preliminary discussion section

Week 14

Submit zero-order draft of final product parts

Partners include:

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