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Evaluating our Environment: moving from a reductionist analysis to a holistic assessment of ecosystems

Organised by the Environmental Statistics Section of the Royal Statistical Society.

Tuesday 16 December 2008

RSS, 12 Errol Street, London, EC1Y 8LX

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Summary

The ecosystem services concept brings ideas on the structure and function of a whole ecosystem together within the context of assessing and valuing the services the ecosystem provides to humans (clean air, drinking water, recreation, ...). One reason for an ecosystem services assessment can be to quantify the effect on people of changes in ecosystem function linked to known drivers (policy, climate change, pollution, ...), Statistics, ecology, environmental science, social science and economics all have a role to play in these complex assessments. Environmental science has traditionally studied ecosystem structure and function, including the effects of external and internal drivers of change. The knowledge within this science base is a necessary foundation of any valuation within an ecosystem services study. Examples of recent research on components of ecosystems will be presented and their potential contribution to an ecosystem services assessment will be discussed. The valuation of an ecosystem through its component parts and its function in terms of the provision of services to the human population is not a trivial task. Many studies concentrate on economic benefits, but the valuation of non-monetary benefits is another important contribution to a holistic assessment and any subsequent decision process. Translating a concept into a practical tool forces a re-evaluation of the underlying assumptions and the discovery of how far the ideas can be stretched before they become essentially uninformative. Understanding any limitations of the ecosystem services concept may be an important part of its useful application. The meeting will explore the validity, practicality and limitations of the ecosystem services concept and how we might deliver a more holistic assessment of our environment.

Note

Registration fees for this meeting are as follows: £20 Retired/EDA/Student Fellows; £25 CStats/GradStats; £27 Fellows; £30 Linked Associates/Section, Group or Student members; £35 None of the above. Please register to attend this meeting by completing the form available here.

A poster for this event may be downloaded here.

Programme

10:00 Registration
10:30 Roy Haines-Young (Nottingham)
Introduction
11:15 Ron Smith & Jan Dick (Centre for Ecology and Hydrology)
Ecosystem service assessments at UK long term monitoring sites
11:45 Kathy Willis (Oxford)
Assessing ecosystem functioning, thresholdsUse of uninitialized value in concatenation (.) or string at E:\listplex\SYSTEM\SCRIPTS\filearea.cgi line 455, line 203. and resilience using long-term ecological records
12:15 Discussion
12:45 Lunch
13:45 ESS AGM
14:00 Peter Herman (NIOO-KNAW)
Can an ecosystem refuse to deliver services? How to value real values
14:45 Clive Anderson (Sheffield)
Estimating biospheric carbon fluxes
15:05 Sian Morse-Jones (East Anglia)
Ecosystem Valuation: A Sequential Decision Support System and Quality Assessment Issues
15:35 Refreshments
16:00 Discussion
16:20 David Elston (BioSS)
Design considerations for establishing monitoring schemes
16:50 Paul Somerfield (PML)
A holistic approach to costing the impact of man's activities in the marine environment
17:20 Round-up
17:30 Close

Please contact Ron Smith for further details.

Abstracts

Peter Herman (NIOO-KNAW) Can an ecosystem refuse to deliver services? How to value real values.
In my contribution I will argue that many oft-cited ecosystem services are entirely unavoidable consequences of ecosystem functioning, even in very degraded ecosystems. Valuation of these services may not always help management decisions. It will also not replace due consideration of aesthetic, cultural and even moral values in our attitude towards nature.
Clive Anderson (Sheffield) Estimating biospheric carbon fluxes
Carbon stocks are key ecosystem components. This contribution will describe a way of estimating changes in them, and - crucially for mature policy formulation - assessing uncertainty in the estimates.
Sian Morse-Jones (East Anglia) Ecosystem Valuation: A Sequential Decision Support System and Quality Assessment Issues
In this paper, we argue for a sequential decision support system that can lead to a more integrated and rigorous approach to environmental valuation and biophysical measurement of ecosystem services. We also review guidance on valuation studies quality assurance, and discuss the problems inherent with benefits transfer - the most common way valuation studies are applied in the policy process.
David Elston (BioSS) Design considerations for establishing monitoring schemes
As new, more holistic, ecosystem metrics become established, we will become interested in recording changes over time in these metrics and understanding the causes of such changes. I will draw on experiences from monitoring schemes for individual ecosystem components, and discuss how such experiences can guide the establishment of future monitoring schemes.

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Chris Ferro
Updated: 5 November 2008