Natural capital is defined as earth’s land, water, and atmosphere that supplies resources and a flow of ecosystem services. The benefits of those services involve for example storage of flood waters, air pollution absorption by plants or climate regulation by soils or plants. Even though they are crucial for mankind, ecosystem services are massively undervalued, as we do not pay for them directly.
That’s why they have to be protected and valued, as these features are worth billions of dollars annually and their loss can evoke a huge damage in economy, health, food production, climate stability and basic needs, for instance clean water.
Grasslands cover roughly 40 per cent of the earth’s surface. However, only 0.8 per cent of BC’s territory is covered by it. A vast amount of grassland is used for alternate land use, for example intensive agriculture or urban development. Further, many of the remaining grasslands are overgrazed, which degrades the soil and enhances desertification and the growth of invasive plants.
The purpose of this report included giving a review of ecosystem goods and services (EGS) valuation studies concerning grasslands in North America and analyzing payment for ecosystem services including conservation programs regarding grasslands and range fields.
Furthermore, it aimed at providing opportunities for upcoming research on conservation incentives and ecosystem services valuation for BC’s conservation of its grasslands.
Ecosystem goods and services were categorized in the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment (2005) as follows: provisioning services (food, fuels and fibres), regulating services (climate, disease outbreaks, wastes and pollination), cultural services (aesthetic, recreational and spiritual value) and supporting services (nutrient cycling and water purification). Moreover, EGS were valued by quantifying market and non-market goods.
With comparisons to other places from all over the world, the study focusses on BC in general, and specifically the Lower Fraser Valley.
Several conservation and environmental protection programs were considered, such as the Canada-British Columbia Environmental Farm Plan Program, where producers such as farmers go through a process of identification of their environmental strengths and potential risks and develop a plan to diminish any pinpointed risks. Producers get funding to implement environmental Beneficial Management Practices such as land management for soils at risk, enhancing wildlife habitat and biodiversity, species at risk, grazing management planning or biodiversity enhancement planning.
Further programs aimed at CO2 reduction in grassland areas by providing farmers with technical assistance for conservation or improvement of resources to meet ecological, economic and social expectations. In addition, many landowners were motivated to develop upland, wetland, riparian and aquatic areas on their land.
Habitat mapping in BC showed that an important amount of habitat is being lost to land development. Approximately 70 per cent of the initial wetlands in the Fraser River Delta and Greater Victoria have been lost.
In future studies, GIS applications can be applied on land-use planning and policy making in order to calculate benefits for ecosystem services. Moreover, carbon storage can be quantified and valued by using land cover analysis and estimates from experimental sources. Market prices and avoided damage costs can also be valued more precisely this way.
Despite the small land base attributed to grasslands in British Columbia, they are of high social, economic and ecological value. It is important that these studies continue to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of BC’s grasslands.
- Source Sara J. Wilson. August 2009. The Value of BC’s Grasslands: Exploring Ecosystem Values and Incentives for Conservation Final Report. Prepared by Natural Capital Research & Consulting, for Grasslands Conservation Council of British Columbia. Available at : https://grasslandrestorationforum.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Value-of-BC-Grasslands-_21809.pdf [Accessed 03/2021].