Ecosystem services are the inherently benefitial functions that nature provides to humans. They can be obvious, like the river habitat for fish we eat or water we drink, or harder to see, such as the ability of tree roots to hold hillsides together and prevent erosion in flood prone areas. The discussion around ecosystem services and co-benefits within carbon offset projects is ongoing, mainly due to the complexity of measuring and valuing these ecosystem services.
Today, the Appalachian Carbon Exchange releases its working white paper focused on the ecosystem services within the lands of the ACE forest management project. The nature of the economic exchange within the carbon marketplace opens a door to valuing these benefits, and because of the local nature of this forest management project, we are in a unique situation to measure and communicate those benefits which often go unexamined.
The goal of the working white paper is to define, refine, measure, and monitor these co-benefits as they exist in the context of a carbon offset project. This first release is the beginning of a framework that ACE will utilize moving into further research and measuring phases. It provides an academic literature review of the subject and approaches the topic by applying three types of ecosystem services:
- Regulating services, which are functions that maintain a balance such as pollinators distributing species or trees storing carbon
- Provisioning services, which are items nature provides to us directly like food, water, shelter etc
- Cultural services, including non-material benefits provided to people that inspire harmony within a culture such as art, recreation and spirituality
The most prominent ecosystem services covered here and observed in the region (certainly not an extensive list), include flood mitigation, biodiversity, recreation, pollination, and air quality. The paper highlights the challenges of the fragmented working landscape in Appalachia as well as offers some scope to the process of classification.
Read the full paper here.