Earth's life-support systems are in rapid decline, yet we have few metrics or indicators with which to track these changes. The world's governments are calling for biodiversity and ecosystem-service monitoring to guide and evaluate international conservation policy as well as to incorporate natural capital into their national accounts. The Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON) has been tasked with setting up this monitoring system. Here we explore the immediate feasibility of creating a global ecosystem-service monitoring platform under the GEO BON framework through combining data from national statistics, global vegetation models, and production function models. We found that nine ecosystem services could be annually reported at a national scale in the short term: carbon sequestration, water supply for hydropower, and non-fisheries marine products, crop, livestock, game meat, fisheries, mariculture, and timber production. Reported changes in service delivery over time reflected ecological shocks (e.g., droughts and disease outbreaks), highlighting the immediate utility of this monitoring system. Our work also identified three opportunities for creating a more comprehensive monitoring system. First, investing in input data for ecological process models (e.g., global land-use maps) would allow many more regulating services to be monitored. Currently, only 1 of 9 services that can be reported is a regulating service. Second, household surveys and censuses could help evaluate how nature affects people and provides non-monetary benefits. Finally, to forecast the sustainability of service delivery, research efforts could focus on calculating the total remaining biophysical stocks of provisioning services. Regardless, we demonstrated that a preliminary ecosystem-service monitoring platform is immediately feasible. With sufficient international investment, the platform could evolve further into a much-needed system to track changes in our planet's life-support systems.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work has been supported by funding from GEO BON, DIVERSITAS , the European Environment Agency , NASA , the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation , the European Commission Seventh Framework Programme under Grant Agreement No. FP7 ENV-2012-308393-2 (OPERAs), and a NatureNet Science Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Nature Conservancy to DSK.
- Ecosystem services
- GEO BON
- Global change
- Process models