Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Report on ecosystem services "stacking"

EPRI released their big report on ecosystem service stacking this week -- a long-awaited analysis of a survey for which I was involved in the initial design. 

Stacking is a topic which has largely flown under the radar -- there have been a handful of white-paper type reports, notably the one by  David Cooley and Lydia Olander at Duke's Nicholas School  last year, but absolutely nothing in the peer-reviewed literature.  But the question, to me, seems explosive in its consequences:  Can you establish more than one type of ES credit on a given piece of land? Can you, for example, sell carbon, water quality, endangered species habitat from the same site?  Currently the US regulatory answer is "no", but this is enforced by NO guidance or rule.  And with the role of REDD+ rising in the global carbon policy arena, expect to see a lot more talk about the way different ecosystem services overlay and interrelate.

Explosive, because the ability to derive many revenue streams from a single site comes into potential conflict with the ecological interrelationships between each service,  the documentation of which has vexed better minds than mine.  If you sell a carbon credit, how do you ensure that the underlying physical processes which created the carbon credit are not also intimately involved in creating other kinds of credits you might sell from the site? Could there be a more potent tension between the capitalist and ecological imperatives?  I'm going to leave it at that for the moment since I am working on a yet-to-be released paper with several co-authors on the topic.

A lot of good work here by Jessica Fox, Roy Gardner, and their crew.  Share and enjoy!

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