by GC Daily, S Polasky, J Goldstein, PM Kareiva, HA Mooney, L Pejchar, TH Ricketts, J Salzman, R Shallenberger
Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 7(1):21-282009
The importance of ecosystem services is often only recognized following a decrease or loss in the services due to human activity. Efforts to value and protect ecosystem services have been deemed the last, and most promising hope for making conservation mainstream. However, there is a need to develop a scientific basis, and large-scale policy and finance mechanisms which incorporate natural capital into resource and land-use decisions. This paper presents a conceptual framework and strategic plan for securing ecosystem services by exploring measures already initiated in Hawaii. In order to replicate, scale up, and sustain the current pioneering efforts to give ecosystem services weight in decision making, the authors suggest that the science of ecosystem services needs to advance rapidly; in addition to the services being explicitly and systematically integrated into decision making by individuals, corporations, and governments. To address these challenges, the authors present a framework which links decisions, institutions, ecosystems, services, and values, while also accounting for incentives, actions and scenarios, biophysical models, economic and cultural models, and other relevant information. The authors suggest the main goal of valuing and understanding ecosystem services and natural capital is to foster more beneficial decisions, which could result in progressive actions when considering land use, water, and other elements of natural capital. Hawaii is a microcosm of the critical forces occurring worldwide based on its rapidly growing population and intensifying development pressure, which can be detrimental to the future of Hawaii’s forests, croplands, ranchlands, and other aspects of its economy and culture. After examining some of Hawaii’s active works in progress, the authors determined the scientific foundation for informing decisions could be greatly enhanced by collaborating with stakeholders, establishing novel programs for long-term monitoring of ecosystem attributes, and improving methods for assessing the current conditions and predicting the future conditions of ecosystems.