Assessing the Worth of Ecological Services Using the Ecological Accounting Process (EAP) for Watershed Assessment
Note to Reader:
The capacity-building program branded as Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management is designed to inform and educate local governments and stakeholders about the whole-system, water balance approach.
The program includes the Ecological Accounting Process (EAP) to value the ‘water balance services’ provided by nature. Demonstration applications for small watersheds in the Cowichan and Comox valleys have been undertaken to show how local governments would apply this unique approach.
At the Nanaimo Water Stewardship Symposium in April 2018, EAP Chair Tim Pringle distilled what has been learned from the EAP case studies. The Symposium provided a platform for a call for action because adapting to climate change requires transformation in how we value nature and service land.
The EAP initiative has broken new ground and yielded fascinating insights. A significant breakthrough in approach is the notion of a commons asset as the starting point for calculating the financial value of a stream bed and riparian corridor.
“Hydrology is the engine that powers ecological services,” stated Tim Pringle, Chair, Ecological Accounting Process (EAP) Initiative, at the Nanaimo Water Stewardship Symposium
Look Through the ‘Worth Lens’
BC has arrived at a fork in the road. Flood, drought, fire, wind and cold – extreme events are becoming the norm. Impacts are magnified by human interventions. Adapting to changes in the water cycle and restoring the water balance starts with communities rethinking their relationship with nature.
“EAP focuses on worth – that is, value in use – rather than personal and social perceptions of value or market value, which is value in exchange. Worth refers to likely returns for expenditures,” states Tim Pringle. “At the end of the day, community and citizen decisions about how much to invest in restoration of watershed function boil down to this aspect of human nature: what is it worth to me?”
Investment of Resources:
“Looking through the ‘worth lens’ has been transformational. As a result, our approach to the Comox Valley and Cowichan Valley demonstration applications changed direction over the past year. It culminated in a fundamental shift in philosophy regarding how best to value natural assets,” Tim Pringle observes.
“We concluded that less emphasis should be placed on monetization of ecological services. Rather, we believe it is more realistic to focus on the investment of resources – that is, time and money – as well as aspirations of motivated stakeholders.
“For this reason, EAP examines the investment of resources already made by many stakeholders, as well as their aspirations concerning the maintenance (prevent degradation) and management(enhancement) of ecological services in small watersheds. We also define small watersheds as ‘creeksheds’.”
To Learn More:
The EAP Methodology and Why It is Useful
“EAP looks at an entire watershed at the catchment and/or creekshed level. By reviewing historical land use impacts, it describes changes to the overall hydrology. It applies the Water Balance Methodology as the tool to assess the current conditions of the hydrology,” continues Tim Pringle.
“This analysis provides information needed to achieve two outcomes: understand the functioning condition of dependent ecosystems; and to propose maintenance and enhancement strategies.
“The focus of EAP is on watershed hydrological conditions and the dependent ecological services, which sustain natural systems and human settlement. EAP is not about engineering practices as the analytical starting point,” emphasizes Tim Pringle.
Why EAP is Useful:
What We Have Learned from the Demonstration Applications
“Our key finding is that the worth of a creekshed is a package of ecological services made possible by the hydrology,” reports Tim Pringle. “These inter-dependent ecological systems provide uses we call nature; examples are wetlands, ponds, riparian areas, woodlands, habitat for flora and fauna, etc.
“These systems add appeal and quality to parks, greenways, trails, as well as opportunities to focus on natural processes such as salmon spawning and nesting sites.
“The lynch-pin for financial valuation is the calculation of what the stream bed and riparian zone is worth. The EAP team has developed and tested a methodology that is tied to the BC Assessment database. This resulting valuation of worth would be the starting point for establishing an annual budget for creekshed management.”
Who Would Use EAP:
“EAP would contribute to a range of stakeholder interests and needs. In particular, EAP would help stakeholders / managers determine whether or not they should change practices and adopt new strategies regarding the ecological systems in the stream corridor, riparian zone and the entire watershed.
“Taking action would depend on what stakeholders think the creekshed is worth. Thus, participation in a management regime that integrates stakeholder effort in all creekshed areas would be a crucial step in enhancement and maintenance efforts.
“The next step is doing. A strategy is the path to success, and becomes our primary interface with the world. Find the leadership and opportunity within a creekshed to adopt a strategy, devise an implementation plan, and confirm the worth of undertaking enhancement and management,” concludes Tim Pringle.