Biodiversity and ecosystem services: re-considering the policy links

How ecosystem services link to biodiversity conservation

A current ecosystem services paradigm describes the link this way: "what and how much biodiversity should be targeted for conservation depends on what services are important to maintain and with what reliability."

As an alternative framework, ecosystem services help to justify conservation of overall biodiversity--but without the awkward presumption that the only biodiversity of interest is that defined by perceived important services


C. Perrings et al. ("Biodiversity transcends services—response," Letters, 24 December 2010, p. 1745) provide some welcome, thought-provoking, comments on my Letter (1). I agree with their observations concerning the long history of recognition of option values of biodiversity, the need to consider more than just marketed commodities, and the limitations of trumpeting intrinsic value. But my Letter did not raise those issues. My specific concern was that their proposed focus on currently perceived important, critical ecosystems services (2) would fail to capture future unanticipated benefits and services linked to biodiversity option values (3). Here, Perrings et al. left some important questions unanswered.

I applaud Perrings et al.'s acknowledgment of option values as the most important benefit from biodiversity. But they did not reconcile this with their proposed focus on perceived critical ecosystem services (2). Broadly, preservation of option values requires maintenance of living variation. Thus, a broad goal to conserve option values is also a goal of overall biodiversity conservation (3). Perhaps biodiversity's option values can count as a critical ecosystem service. But would these option values satisfy Perrings et al.'s preferred focus on real costs of biodiversity loss?

Whether they are called services or not (4), biodiversity's option values need to be integrated explicitly into effective trade-offs and synergies with ecosystem services (1, 5). This may require reconsideration about how ecosystem services link to biodiversity conservation. Perrings et al. (2) neatly summarize the current ecosystem services paradigm: "what and how much biodiversity should be targeted for conservation depends on what services are important to maintain and with what reliability." Thus, perceived important services are to define the biodiversity of interest. Here, the biodiversity measures may simply re-express services in terms of their ecological basis (such as abundance and species' interactions) (6). Far from being a strategic use of services to justify existing biodiversity conservation needs, ecosystem services conservation may effectively become an end in itself, with unknown consequences for actual biodiversity loss.

As an alternative framework (1, 3), ecosystem services help to justify conservation of overall biodiversity--but without the awkward presumption that the only biodiversity of interest is that defined by perceived important services (7). The framework primarily views ecosystem services as a powerful way to reduce the cost of retaining relatively intact lands. These lands may or may not have elements of biodiversity that contribute to overall regional biodiversity conservation. Therefore, effective trade-offs among all these costs and contributions are needed, and define an important target for 2020 (1, 5).

Daniel P Faith
The Australian Museum, 6 College Street, Sydney, NSW 2010, Australia.

References and Notes
1. D. P. Faith, Science 330, 1745 (2010).
2. C. Perrings et al., Science 330, 323 (2010).
3. D. P. Faith, Biodiversity, in N. Z. Edward, Ed., Summer 2007 Edition, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2008/entries/biodiversity/).
4. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (8) makes a distinction, arguing that global biodiversity loss is "more a concern about long-term option values, and hence defines a critical knowledge gap that goes beyond current perceived services."
5. A proposed higher-level goal or target (9) seeks new implementations of systematic conservation planning to achieve more effective trade-offs and synergies, compared to "business as usual".
6. For example, Diaz et al. (10) consider biodiversity as "the number, abundance, composition, spatial distribution, and interactions of genotypes, populations, species, functional types and traits, and landscape units in a given system".
7. Services may point to important biospecifics more than to biodiversity (11).
8. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Policy Responses (Island Press, Washington, DC, 2005).
9. D. P. Faith, S. Ferrier, Good news and bad news for the 2010 biodiversity target Science (E-Letter, 17 March 2005); www.sciencemag.org/content/307/5707/212.full/reply#sci_el_1272.
10. S. Diaz et al., Curr. Opin. Environ. Sustain. 1, 55 (2009).
11. D. P. Faith, Trends Ecol. Evol. 12, 66 (1997).http://download.cell.com/trends/ecology-evolution/pdf/PIIS016953479782678X.pdf?intermediate=true

from
Faith D. P (2011) Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity Option Values. Science Online. 10 February 2011.
http://www.sciencemag.org/content/330/6012/1745/reply

see also:
Daniel P Faith  (2012) Common ground for biodiversity and ecosystem services: the “partial protection” challenge. F1000 Research, 1:30 (doi: 10.3410/f1000research.1-30.v1) http://f1000research.com/articles/common-ground-for-biodiversity-and-ecosystem-services-the-partial-protection-challenge/

Faith, D.P. (2011) Higher-level targets for ecosystem services and biodiversity should focus on regional capacity for effective trade-offs. Diversity 3,1-7; doi:10.3390/d3010001 http://www.mdpi.com/1424-2818/3/1/1/pdf 

for more on biodiversity, ecosystem services, and option values, see 

Belinda Reyers, Stephen Polasky, Heather Tallis, Harold A. Mooney and Anne Larigauderie (2012) Finding Common Ground for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.  Bioscience 62:503-507.
and my response:
Faith D. P. (2012) Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services: Similar but Different. Bioscience.Vol. 62, No. 9 (September 2012), p. 785 http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/bio.2012.62.9.17
 

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Dr Dan Faith , Principal Research Scientist
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