The behavior of companies, nations and citizens is strongly influenced by the prices they pay for goods and services. However, the prices of goods and services often do not take into account the value lost when ecosystem services are degraded. This can sometimes be attributed to the limited understanding of the value of ecosystem services, and how to integrate these values into the decision-making process.
The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) is an international initiative to draw attention to the benefits of biodiversity. It focuses on the values of biodiversity and ecosystem services, the growing costs of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation, and the benefits of action addressing these pressures.
Wetlands ecosystems can be of particularly high value- something that more often than not is not taken into consideration in the decision making process. The Ramsar Secretariat, in partnership with the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Wetlands International, The Convention on Biological Diversity(CBD), the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the UNEP TEEB Office, have launched the TEEB for Water and Wetlands report.
The report is about the “water – wetlands – ecosystem services” interface – and presents insights on critical water-related ecosystem services in order to encourage additional policy momentum, business commitment, and investment in the conservation, restoration, and wise use of wetlands. It presents recommendations on how the value of water and wetlands can be mainstreamed into decision making.
It responds to the following questions by presenting insights from experience from across the globe:
- Benefits and risks of loss: what are the roles of wetlands in providing water and wider ecosystem services and what are their values?
- Measuring to manage: how can we improve what we are measuring to help improve governance of our natural capital?
- Integrating the values of water and wetlands into decision making: what needs to be done to improve the consideration of the values and benefits of water and wetland in policy developments and in practical decision making?
Also, it underlines the fundamental importance of wetlands in the water cycle and in addressing water objectives reflected in the Rio+20 agreement, the Millennium Development Goals and forthcoming post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals.
The report draws attention to examples from around the world. For the Mediterranean region the Mediterranean Wetlands Observatory, a MedWet/Tour du Valat Initiative to monitor and assess Mediterranean wetlands, is mentioned as a case study for improving the evidence base on water, wetlands and their ecosystem services by making available quality information on wetlands. As a related example, the GlobWetlandII project- listed in the Agadir Commitments – is also mentioned as part of a Global Wetland Observation System (GWOS).
Other examples given in the report are the Prespa Lakes – a transboundary Ramsar site shared by Albania, Greece, and the FYR of Macedonia – and Lake Ichkeul in Tunisia. These are mentioned in terms of the use of traditional practices and local knowledge in the management of wetlands and in the creation of sustainable tourism practices respectively.
Even though arguments exist against the monetary valuation of ecosystems in that it could lead to a “commoditization of nature” (McCauley, 2006), MedWet follows the Ramsar Convention in placing high value on this approach. Ignoring the economic value of wetlands may reduce the ability to make robust arguments that have a chance of informing decisions for the conservation of important ecosystems. For this reason we believe that wetland communities must familiarize themselves with this report and use it to benefit of wetlands in the Mediterranean and globally. Comments to the report based on field experiences are welcome and can be sent to the MedWet Secretariat at firstname.lastname@example.org