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Research Report

Ecosystem services certification: Opportunities and constraints

Erik Meijaard
Douglas Sheil
Manuel R. Guariguata
Robert Nasi
Terry Sunderland
Louis Putzel
Copyright Date: Jan. 1, 2011
Pages: 72
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-2)

    Payments for ecosystem services are considered an effective way of funding the costs of forest conservation, by offsetting the opportunity costs of forest development. If such payment systems could be made effective they could become a key element in global strategies for mainstreaming forest biodiversity conservation and maintaining essential support services from forests. This would contribute to meeting Millennium Development Goal 7, on environmental sustainability, as well as the Bali Roadmap of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on establishing verifiable mechanisms to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD).

    According to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, more...

  2. (pp. 3-6)

    Humankind benefits from a multitude of resources and processes that are supplied by natural ecosystems. These benefits include products like clean drinking water, processes such as the decomposition of wastes, or spiritual values. Although recognition of the value of nature to society has a long history (Krutilla 1967; Westman 1977; Daily 1997), the significance of ecosystem services to humanity was strongly boosted by the United Nations 2004 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, a four-year study involving more than 1,300 scientists worldwide (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005). This assessment grouped ecosystem services into four broad categories: 1) provisioning, such as the production of food...

  3. (pp. 7-8)

    This review is based on an analysis of the available literature. Electronic literature databases, such as Web of Science, Current Contents, and Google Scholar were searched, using simple search terms such as ‘ecosystem services’, ‘certification’, ‘REDD’, or combinations such as ‘watershed AND services AND certification’. The resulting citations were traced to the original publications, and these were studied in as much detail as possible, given the limited period of this review.

    In addition to the literature review, discussions were held via email correspondence with specialists in the field working at CIFOR, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and several academic institutions...

  4. (pp. 9-14)

    Certification is a process of controlling particular aspects of a system to provide some guarantee to outsiders that the systems complies to an agreed set of rules. The principles and criteria of certification have been likened to a filter (Meidinger et al. 2003). You take a system, pour it through a filter, check inside, and if nothing sticks, it is okay. The filter is most often implemented by an independent party. Residues in the filter indicate noncompliance and require action. Certification does not generally refer to the legal aspects of a system, which is referred to as licensure. Usually, licensure...

  5. (pp. 15-26)

    Approximately 12–20% of global greenhouse gas emissions are caused by land use change and, in particular, the destruction of tropical forests (Metz et al. 2007; van der Werf et al. 2009). Reducing land-use change and forest degradation has been proposed as a cost-effective way of slowing carbon emissions compared to other mitigation strategies such as curbing emissions from power stations. Decisions taken at the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC in Bali, 2007 opened the possibility for reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) payments to become part of the post-Kyoto framework agreement, and for short-term pilot...

  6. (pp. 27-32)

    The idea of independent forest certification was first proposed by the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) at the beginning of the 1990s, but was not realised in practice. The first practical and working example became the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), founded in 1993 by environmental nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) and retailers, with support from some US foundations. Other systems were developed and introduced as a response to the FSC, generally by the forest industry sector. The other schemes, developed by the forest industry, are often less strict in areas relating to stakeholder involvement, biodiversity conservation, indigenous people’s rights protection and social...

  7. (pp. 33-42)

    Despite significant progress, forest certification, especially in tropical countries, has fallen short of its goal to promote sustainable forest management in large areas of forest (Dennis et al. 2008; Purbawiyatna and Simula 2008; Schulze et al. 2010). In April 2008, it was estimated that only 1.5% of the remaining tropical and subtropical forests had been certified (Bennett 2008). The following factors have been highlighted as the main barriers to progress in forest and timber certification in the tropics: lack of skills and adequate management systems in forest management units, obstacles to accessing certification services, limited awareness of the importance of...

  8. (pp. 43-46)

    The purpose of this review was to provide input into the development of pilot projects for ecosystem service certification. There is significant scepticism about the feasibility of certifying ecosystem services. The two most obvious candidates in large-scale projects are water and carbon. At a global and regional scale, carbon sequestration seems the most likely candidate for piloting certification, with other ecosystem services facing a range of methodological and organisational challenges that make certification unlikely in the short to medium term. The main obstacles are limited market opportunities for certification, with too few competing buyers and prohibitive costs. Within niche markets,...

  9. (pp. 47-47)

    This review has highlighted some of the challenges and barriers in developing certification systems for ecosystem services. A range of practical issues have limited the impact of timber and fibre certification on sustainable forest management, especially in the tropics. In addition to overcoming these recognised practical obstacles, a range of other questions need to be studied, either within the context of the proposed Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)- Global Environment Facility (GEF) pilot projects, or as standalone research studies. These include the following:

    Do pragmatic and feasible systems for quantifying and monitoring the provision of ecosystem services exist? Is it possible...