Ecosystem services – Background

Ecosystems are complex interactions among living and non-living components of the environment, eg forests, grasslands, marine ecosystems. These interactions mediate processes that achieve major transformations of resources, many rivalling or exceeding what can be cost effectively achieved by humans, eg regulation of atmospheric gases, large scale filtration and purification of water. These transformations (ecosystem services) support and enrich human life, but are often overlooked in decision making because decision makers lack information about them, and they (mostly) are outside economic markets and haven’t had an economic value attached to them.

Australia21’s work on ecosystems services has been conducted over several years. The team led by Geoff Gorrie has included Australia21 Fellows Professor Mike Archer and Dr Steve Cork, Australia21 Scholars Peter Ampt, Philippa Rowland, and Simone Maynard, Lynne Reeder, Jeremy Thompson,, Jane Dixon, James Varghese, and Professor Bob Douglas.

A series of roundtables were held in Queensland, South Australia, the Australian Capital Territory, and Western Australia, with support and sponsorship from state governments in Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia. Building on the outcomes of these expert discussions Australia21 released a major report A National Ecosystems Services Strategy for Australia in 2008.

Download A National Ecosystems Services Strategy for Australia, 2008, Australia21, Canberra.

 

Subsequently the (then) Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) commissioned Australia21 to research how ecosystem services concepts are evolving, and their relevance to policy development for the Australian Government and other sectors of society, particularly with reference to agricultural land. The Australia21 report concluded that one of the greatest benefits of the adoption of an ecosystem service approach would be its value in facilitating dialogue between parties on complex major policy challenges facing Australia. It recommended facilitating assessment of ecosystem services across all areas of government and society by building on existing approaches, further developing tools and improving governance arrangements,

Cork S, Gorrie G, Ampt P, Maynard S, Rowland P 2012 Discussion Paper on Ecosystem Services for the Department of Agriculture. Final Report for the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry, Australia21, Canberra.

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