Human life depends on the health of our ecosystems and the services they provide, from supplying food and water, to regulating diseases and the climate. Threats to the biodiversity that makes up those ecosystems are also threats to human wellbeing.
In order to guide effective solutions to protect and promote healthy ecosystems, it is essential to explore the origins, trends, and drivers of ecosystem threats such as habitat loss, over-exploiting natural resources, and climate change. The data and information produced must also be made accessible to decision-makers to support formulation of the policies which drive positive change for the environment.
The United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) is supporting 12 countries improve their knowledge base on biodiversity and ecosystems by building their capacity to carry out a National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA) for informed decision making. This work is carried out under the umbrella of the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Network (BES-Net) hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and supported financially by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU).
This year, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, and Grenada finalized the scoping study reports for their assessments. The reports on this first stage of the process comprise some crucial elements: Determining the need for an assessment; defining the key policy questions the assessment will answer; and examining key assessment design considerations.
Through stakeholder consultation, Cambodia has concluded that identifying the contribution of biodiversity and ecosystem services to their country’s socio-economic development is a high priority and is also understanding the current predicted trends of these contributions.
Given that much of Grenada’s infrastructure is located on the coast, their assessment will include a focus on the ecosystems that play a critical role in protection from climate change induced sea-level rise and coastal erosion.
Azerbaijan has selected three priority ecosystems for their assessment: forests, freshwater, and mountains. It will determine how much is known about these ecosystems and address any knowledge gaps, in order to maximize benefits to citizens’ wellbeing.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has recognized that the uptake and use of the key findings of their assessment will be maximized if they engage stakeholders across different sectors of the economy, including water management, tourism, transport, and energy.
With UNEP-WCMC and UNDP’s continued support, the four countries are now working towards selecting their panel of expert authors to begin writing their technical reports. It is vital that authors and experts involved in the assessment are from a variety of backgrounds and adequately reflect each country’s cultural national diversity. This will also ensure outputs produced gain traction amongst both scientific and political communities.
Ultimately, NEAs can be viewed as a tool for detecting existing opportunities to enhance the national wellbeing and economy, by protecting and supporting the country’s biodiversity and ecosystems.
Below are links to available scoping reports as well as other NEA-related outputs:
- Bosnia and Herzegovina: Scoping Report for Bosnia & Herzegovina’s NEA
- Grenada: Scoping Report for the National Ecosystem Assessment of Grenada