Ecosystem services in mountainous regions

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Supply and Demand for Ecosystem Services in Mountainous Regions
Thomas Koellner
Research group Ecosystem Services at NSSI-ETH Zurich

While ecosystems deliver goods and services of enormous value to the human society (Pearce and Moran 1994, Daily 1997), intensive land and water use, extraction of natural resources, and chemical emissions into the environment are leading to a worldwide loss ofbiodiversity and degradation of ecosystem functioning (Hooper et al. 2005, Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005). Climate change has intensified the dynamics of this human-environment interaction, which is more severe in mountain regions compared to the lowlands (see Körner this volume). Because of topographical complexity and altitudinal gradients mountain ecosystems are particularly sensitiveto global change compared to the lowland (Becker et al. 2007, Bugmann et al. 2007). However, the lowlands are also heavily influenced by undesired changes in mountain areas, because of their importance for biodiversity and for providing ecosystem services. Downstream actors benefit from clean water, flood control, reduced sedimentation, scenic beauty and many more positive mountainous ecosystemservices. By definition ecosystem services are functions of nature with value for the human wellbeing.1 This polarity between nature and human well-being implies that it is essential to understand the interdependences between the ecological system and the socio-economic system (Figure 1). We use the concept of human-environment systems in sensu Scholz (2003) as the rationale for the research program.This allows studying the supply and demand for ecosystem services in an integrated manner.

This simple definition is not completely in line with that of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), which defines ecosystem services as the “benefits people obtain from ecosystems”. The difference in the two definitions is that the MA claims that food, water, timber and fiber are also ecosystemservices. I would rather say it is not the commodity from forestry and agriculture, which is the service, but the function of nature to produce such commodities. Anyway, currently there is much confusion around the exact definition of ecosystem services (see Boyd 2007, Boyd and Banzhaf 2007, Wallace 2007, Costanza 2008).

alpine space - man & environment, vol. 7: Global Change and SustainableDevelopment in Mountain Regions © 2009 iup • innsbruck university press, ISBN 978-3-902571-97-7

Global Change and Sustainable Development in Mountain Regions

Figure 1: Conceptual framework of a research program on supply and demand for ecosystem services. (1) Effects of changes of ecosystem goods and services on the decision-making of actors demanding ecosystem services in a regionalsocio-economic system. (2) “Decision-making” of actors implies changes in land use and land cover. (3) Effects of changes to land use/land cover on regional hydrology, ecosystems and biodiversity. (4) Effects on the ecosystem goods and services supplied. (5), (6) and (7) describe exogenous variables, which influence the modeled system, especially (5) effects of changes in climate on regional ecosystems,(6) Effects of developments in policy on decision-making and (7) effects of developments in (financial and trade) markets on decision-making.

Within this general framework for human-environment systems three main objectives of the research on Ecosystem Services would be A) to model land and water use and its impact on biodiversity and ecosystem services regionally, given scenarios of globalchange (i.e., changes of climate, markets and policies); to analyze the decision-making that drives supply and demand for ecosystem services, and to explore national and international payments for ecosystem services (PES) and their linkages to the financial sector.

B) C)

Improving knowledge related to these three objectives is important to develop strategies for the adaptive and sustainable...
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