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Natural Capital Symposium

Short Talks: Advances in Science and practice of Natural Capital

March 18, 2020 - 10:30 am to 12:00 pm
Munger Conference Center, Paul Brest West

Inside Computer Diagram Policies for better management of nature’s contribution to people and comprehensive accounting for natural capital are gaining more and more. However, what is often missing is a full account for natures contribution to people that range across scales (e.g., from small catchments to large river basins) and domains (e.g., accounting for benefits to both the climate and the water sector). This session explores progress in data and science aimed to better quantify natural capital in the water, food and energy sector to enable actionable policies for leveraging natural capital.

Lm324 Active Bandpass Filter Circuit Diagram Circuit Wiring Session Lead: Rafael SchmittGeomorphologist and Hydrologist at the Natural Capital Project, Stanford University

  • Marisa Escobar, Water Program Director at Stockholm Environment Institute
    • Title: Water Beyond Boundaries - a new water initiative
    • Abstract: For nearly 30 years IWRM has been the governing approach for water management, yet the world’s water resources remain under stress. The Water Beyond Boundaries (WBB) initiative aims to create an innovative agenda for water resources management that goes beyond geographic and jurisdictional boundaries. Through the WBB, we aim to reorient the practice of decision making in water developing three new pillars in response to the challenges of the increasing regional and global ramifications of water management:
      1) identify and analyze water teleconnections where decisions within a watershed have consequences at a distance, or vice versa, 
      2) endogenize ecosystem functions to give ecosystems a seat at the table when water decisions take place, rather than post hoc consideration, and 
      3) include multi-interest, multi-scale participatory elements for water management that includes all key stakeholders; gender, social equity, poverty and non-human actors. 
      By addressing these pillars, WBB seeks to understand the global interconnections between planning scales to identify conflicts or synergies that occur at multiple places that are interconnected. 
      The WBB initiative implementation is starting in 2020 and presenting it at NatCap is an opportunity to share concepts and to advance our thinking about local-to-global connections in water management.
  • Bernardo Bastien-Olvera, Ph.D. Candidate at University of California, Davis
    • ​Title: The role of natural capital in optimal climate policies
    • Abstract: Climate change is damaging ecosystems throughout the world, which in turn impacts human well-being. Cost-benefit models of global climate change aim to contrast climate impacts on society’s welfare with the benefits that arise from economic growth, the main driver of greenhouse gas emissions. However, there is scarce representation of the use and non-use values of natural systems and their interactions with climate change.
      Here we include natural capital as a form of wealth into a cost-benefit integrated assessment model and show that accounting for use and non-use values has large effects in optimal climate policy. Our model stabilizes the global mean surface temperature at 2.1 Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2100, which is significantly lower than the 3 Celsius that the standard approach finds as optimal, implying that emissions should peak at most in 2030. Our results demonstrate that accounting for this comprehensive definition of wealth and acknowledging the role of intrinsic and instrumental nature’s contributions to society implies a social cost of carbon of $122.75 2019USD/tonCO2, which is 5 times larger than standard estimates.
      We anticipate our model to be a starting framework for bridging the dynamics of ecology, economy and climate systems within cost-benefit approaches.
  • Andrew Guswa, Professor at Smith College
    • Title: Sustainable planning for New England through scenarios: Effects of land-use changes on storm runoff and high flows
    • Abstract: Four plausible scenarios for New England in the United States were co-developed with stakeholders as part of the New England Landscape Futures project to understand how development and land-use changes might affect ecosystem services in 2060.  The four scenarios were differentiated by two axes: degree of socio-economic connectedness (local to global) and degree of natural resource planning and innovation (low to high).  We used the Soil and Water Assessment Tool to determine the effects of those scenarios on storm runoff and streamflow.  We examined the effects across two watersheds – one more developed and one less developed – and two climates – current and future.  Consistent with other work, differences in land use had limited effect on the overall water balance.  Effects on high flows and storm runoff were greater, though, in most cases, less than the effect due to differences in climate.  These results, when combined with additional information on water quality, carbon storage, habitat, and other ecosystem services can help guide sustainable development and landscape planning for the New England region.


  • Michela Faccioli, Research Fellow in Environmental Economics at Land, Environment, Economics and Policy (LEEP) Institute at the University of Exeter
    • Title: Local Natural Capital Accounting: does it deliver useful management information? A case study of Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks (UK)
    • Abstract: Organisations contributing to the preservation of Natural Capital are increasingly encouraged to develop Natural Capital Accounts (NCAs) to quantify and value changes in the natural capital assets and the resulting flows of ecosystem services in their area. Various organisations have risen to this challenge by producing NCAs using a range of methods, which have become 'standard practice'. By reviewing and replicating those methods, we developed NCAs for two UK National Parks (Dartmoor and Exmoor) and critically assessed whether the produced accounts provide consistent and useful information for land management decision-making. The main conclusion is that accounts produced following ‘standard practice’ are of limited usefulness to guide landscape scale management decisions. We find that these accounts present several data gaps and their results are very sensitive to the assumptions made regarding the quantity of natural capital, ecosystem services and their values. Using a range of case study tests, we draw several lessons to improve the completeness, accuracy and management usefulness of NCAs for the future. We recommend to: collect consistent and repeatable fit-for-purpose data; account for uncertainties; develop standardised NCA guidelines; promote tools to help organisations with quantifying and valuing ecosystem services; improve valuation methods; incorporate ecological condition, spatial aspects and sustainability considerations in NCAs.           
  • Neda Trifonova, Research fellow at University of Aberdeen
    • Title: Bayesian Ecosystem and Natural Capital Models to Understand the Effect of Offshore Renewables on the Marine System
    • Abstract: Ecosystem services have provides a number of benefits to human being. Ecosystem services are the important tool for achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) such as no poverty, zero hunger, clan water and life on land. However, there is lack of understanding among the local policy makers on the linkages between ecosystem services and SDGs at various levels in India. Moreover, there are very few monitoring and evaluation mechanisms for current practices on SDGs among the rural poor. The main objective of the paper is to assess the role of ecosystem services and understanding of SDGs among 350 indigenous households in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, India. The result of the study is found that the provision of food and water services is the major role of reducing poverty and hunger. Moreover, this study is also found that lack of communication and understating about the framework of SDGs among the indigenous communities especially (Kattunayakka and Soliga) this is the major challenges at the local level implementation of both states. This study is clearly shows that indigenous communities are the major role for sound ecological management, restoration and sustainable use of ecosystem goods and services to present and future generation. The main implication of the study is to understand the importance of ecosystem services and its indicators for achieving sustainable development goals.        
  • Mody Lacour, Postdoc Researcher at Department of Earth System Science, University of California, Irvine
    • Title: Socio-economic impacts of palm oil trade on human well-being: A review
    • Abstract: Palm oil is primarily grown in tropical regions in Asia, Africa and South America which are home to carbon-dense and biologically rich ecosystems. Increasing global demand for palm oil has resulted in the expansion of smallholder and large-scale plantations that has consequences for biodiversity and human well-being. Palm oil trade may have positive impacts such as improving income and increasing GDP. However, the costs incurred could outweigh the benefits obtained. It is therefore important to understand the costs and benefits of palm oil trade on human well-being. We carried out a review of 58 peer-reviewed studies on the direct (socio-economic) and indirect (ecosystem services) impacts of palm oil trade. We found 67 negative and 76 positive socio-economic impacts on human well-being. These impacts were reflected on the ecosystem services assessed with 88 recorded negative and 8 positive impacts. For the socio-economic metrics, 32 were negative and 33 positive for smallholder plantations while 51 were negative and 57 positive for large-scale plantations. For impacts on ecosystems services 24 were negative and 5 positive for smallholder plantations while 75 were negative and 7 positive for large-scale plantations. Our findings reveal that large-scale plantations have more impacts on human well-being than smallholder plantations.