Ecosystem Services- Making the Link
by j.a. Kendrick
In recent years, more and more people have come to realize that the Earth’s environment is very important to
their quality of life. Many of them want to do something to protect and
assist the earth, but do not know how to do so in a constructive manner. They join groups, worry, protest and complain, but never get beyond separating their
recyclables. The desire is there, but the means of accomplishing it is
missing from the equation. Ecosystem services is a concept that connects people
who would like to actively do something constructive for the health of our planet, with
people who can make that desire become reality.
Some of the ecosystem services provided by forested ecosystems in particular, are sequestering carbon from the atmosphere;
cooling of the earth’s surface; pumping oxygen into the atmosphere, wildlife habitat protection; biodiversity- protection
of both native plants and animals; watershed, wetland & riparian protection;
flood & sediment control; soil and nutrient cycling; groundwater recharge; and aesthetics. There are many
means of accomplishing these goals, the simplest of which are 1) to plant
native trees, and 2) to allow existing
forests of trees to grow rather than harvest them for timber. Planting trees
may seem a trivial endeavor, but living forests of healthy trees serve many of the aforementioned purposes. Allowing these forests to grow for longer periods of time in order to reach maturity
is vital to enabling the Earth to recuperate, regenerate and provide for the quality of life of humans into the future .
The components necessary to making ecosystem services viable are markets and demand.
Combining the two are essential to creating this solution to some of our ecological problems. Demand is created by consumers who are willing to fund some of the necessary “green”
services to be provided and markets are provided by forest managers who are willing to work at actually providing these “green”
services in lieu of just managing for timber production. Small non-Industrial
“Green-tag” forestland owner/managers are a resource that is untapped though they are a likely provider for these
services. Their management goals more closely link to ecosystem protection and conservation, therefore they are more likely
to be interested in this type of market and more likely to provide action and value for the funds provided.
A marketplace is needed to match up the markets with the demand. Most of the current scenarios do nothing more than make people feel better or enable
industries to continue polluting and do little to solve the underlying problem. The
idea that small non-industrial forestland managers can be of benefit in providing essential ecosystem services, has been scoffed
at by the current large service providers. However, it is the consumer who will
ultimately govern what type of services they will fund and whom they will trust to partner with.