Nature + Economics
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Nature + Economics

Environmental markets' news & resources: species, wetlands, habitat and biodiversity.

From May 2013, Madsen Environmental has handed over these reins. I'll continue the focus and trends of Nature+Economics here, and post on similar themes. Follow, suggest a Scoop, and offer advice and feedback as I curate
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U.S. Water Alliance: 2013 U.S. Water Prize Winners Announced - EON: Enhanced Online News (press release)

U.S. Water Alliance: 2013 U.S. Water Prize Winners Announced
EON: Enhanced Online News (press release)
They have created an innovative framework for water quality trading and the project management tools necessary to implement it.
MJP EcoArchives's insight:

Freshwater trust won a U.S. Water Alliance award for water quality trading work. 

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South Aftrica's Min of Water and Env Affairs says Biodiversity contributes to 7% of GDP

South Aftrica's Min of Water and Env Affairs says Biodiversity contributes to 7% of GDP | Nature + Economics | Scoop.it
The Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, says the benefits derived from biodiversity or ecosystem services are estimated at R73bn, contributing to 7% of South Africa's GDP per annum.
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Industry key to conserving forests as demand for wood projected to triple by 2050

Industry key to conserving forests as demand for wood projected to triple by 2050 | Nature + Economics | Scoop.it
By 2050, rising population and demand, as well as an increase in use of wood for bioenergy, could triple the amount of wood society takes from forests and plantations per year, according to the latest instalment of WWF’s Living Forests Report.

Via Gill Mortimer
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Wetland Credits Available Now in Northwest Louisiana - MarketWatch (press release)

Wetland Credits Available Now in Northwest Louisiana MarketWatch (press release) HOUSTON, Jan 31, 2013 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- MSUSA is pleased to announce the release of approximately 66 wetland mitigation credits from Bushneck Bayou Mitigation Bank in...
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What McDonalds and P&G are doing to keep water risk at bay - Business Green

What McDonalds and P&G are doing to keep water risk at bay - Business Green | Nature + Economics | Scoop.it
What McDonalds and P&G are doing to keep water risk at bay Business Green At Goldman Sachs, many of the firm's clients are looking at supply chain issues and how water issues can disrupt these chains, said Kyung-Ah Park, head of Goldman's...
MJP EcoArchives's insight:

McD is requiring supply chain folks to put water risk on a scorecard. P&G is " using the maps and data for its water risk assessment strategy at all of the company's manufacturing sites."

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Wetlands could bog down development - Sacramento Bee

Wetlands could bog down development - Sacramento Bee | Nature + Economics | Scoop.it
Wetlands could bog down development Sacramento Bee Part of the reason the permitting process for building in vernal pool territory takes so long is that Sacramento County has failed to complete a habitat conservation plan that would cover the...
MJP EcoArchives's insight:

Wow. Folks waiting for permits for over 7 years. Regional habitat cons plan in the works since 1990s. 

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AUS alt NRG costs < new coal/gas power plants, partly due to high financing costs (risk premium)

AUS alt NRG costs < new coal/gas power plants, partly due to high financing costs (risk premium) | Nature + Economics | Scoop.it
Australia: Renewables now cheaper than new fossil fuels Commodities Now Power & Energy · Metals & Mining · Agriculture & Softs · Environmental Markets · Technology · Portfolio Management · Commodity News · Reports · Power & Energy · Metals & Mining...
MJP EcoArchives's insight:

The bad news... this points to energy overall being more expensive 

 

The interesting news... Bloomberg New Energy Finance research in Australia notes that (unsubsidized!) alt energy costs less than new coal or gas power plants. And it's partly because banks are putting a risk premium on lending to projects with high GHG: "The study surveyed Australia’s four largest banks and found that lenders are unlikely to finance new coal without a substantial risk premium due to the reputational damage of emissions-intensive investments – if they are to finance coal at all."

 

The article talks about how alt energy is cheaper than traditional - big savings when factor in cost of carbon credits under the "Gillard government’s carbon pricing scheme", but even savings when you don't factor that in: "even without a carbon price... wind energy is 14% cheaper than new coal and 18% cheaper than new gas"

 

Another reason (maybe the bigger reason... is what my spidey sense says) that costs of alt NRG and traditional are getting close to each other: because AUS's LNG export market is expanding and forcing local prices up. Hmm. 

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Butte (CA) Regional Conservation Plan [HCP]

Butte (CA) Regional Conservation Plan [HCP] | Nature + Economics | Scoop.it
EDITORS NOTE: This is the first story in a two-part series.
MJP EcoArchives's insight:

A nice regional article about development of a county-wide habitat conservation plan. HCP was developed b/c of inefficiencies of individuals having to go for multiple env permits for the 40 [TES] in the area. Idea is for county to predict total county development in future, get permit for planned impact to endangered species, and be able to collect funds/preserve lands to mitigate for that impact. 

 

Some interesting facts:

Plan calls for 12% of the county to be conserved in perpetuity (125,000 acres / 1600 square miles in the county)

Development of the draft plan from 2007-2012 has cost $2-3 million. 1900 pages. Yikes.

"At full general plan buildout, the mitigation costs would be more than $153 million. The further state requirement [for preservation] would cost another $428 million." The plan would collect fees for the mitigation part (the $153 million), but would get grants and other sources to cover rest of the cost. Huh? And lands already with conservation easements on it 'count' for the preservation requirement. Huh?

 

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Manufacturing Islands

Manufacturing Islands | Nature + Economics | Scoop.it
Protecting New York City from future superstorms might be a job for artificial islands built in and around its vulnerable harbor.
MJP EcoArchives's insight:

Interest in green infrastructure to gird NYC from future storms. 

 

Nice quote: ""The short answer is man-made barriers in the harbor won't work," said Jeroen Aerts, a professor at the Institute of Environmental Studies in Amsterdam who is consulting on the city's waterfront plans."

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UNEP report on inclusion of biodiversity in 36 standards (circa 2011)

MJP EcoArchives's insight:

See Appendix A, p.27 for list of the 36 standards reviewed, and then Appendix C provides a nice summary of each one and how it included biodiversity.

 

In a May 2012 CBD pub Business.2020, UNEP-WCMC says

"In 2012 we will examine the inclusion of 

ecosystems services in standards and will
assess the potential for, and added value
of, greater and more explicit coverage."

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Digging in: 2013 Research on ‘Level Playing Field’ of 2008 Wetland Mitigation Rules

Digging in: 2013 Research on ‘Level Playing Field’ of 2008 Wetland Mitigation Rules | Nature + Economics | Scoop.it
In 2008, the US EPA and Army Corps of Engineers released their final rule on Compensatory Mitigation for Losses of Aquatic Resources (2008 Rules). The 2008 Rules were intended, in part, to right so...
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A Critical Moment To Harness Green Infrastructure—Not Concrete—To Secure Clean Water

A Critical Moment To Harness Green Infrastructure—Not Concrete—To Secure Clean Water | Nature + Economics | Scoop.it
Triple Pundit
A Critical Moment To Harness Green Infrastructure—Not Concrete—To Secure ...
Triple Pundit
...
MJP EcoArchives's insight:

Nice article by Todd Gartner, WRI.

 

-snip-

"Barriers to expanding green infrastructure...

...institutional challenges, including knowledge gaps and old habits of defaulting to gray infrastructure. For example, water utilities are largely staffed with engineers trained to build gray infrastructure. Accounting standards currently do not allow water utilities to use the same finance mechanisms for natural capital that are typically available for gray infrastructure. And key enabling agencies like the U.S. EPA are sometimes slow to sanction innovative solutions like green infrastructure, due to standard operating procedures that often center on gray infrastructure."


"Push for a tipping point...

...The American Water Works Association (AWWA) is increasingly engaged with its member utilities in the area of “source water protection”—which often centers on green infrastructure. Major cities like Denver, New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco are starting to test out green infrastructure for water management, acting as models to inspire and educate other communities. And a growing number of conservation groups are now specializing in the development and implementation of green infrastructure investment programs.

There’s also a push to provide more resources to help water utilities and other decision makers invest in green infrastructure. At the recent ACES and Ecosystem Markets Conference—which brings together the science, practical, institutional, and decision-making sectors of the ecosystem services community—WRI announced a forthcoming document for green infrastructure investment, a joint effort with Earth Economics and the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences. With the working title “Investing in Green Infrastructure for Source Water Protection,” this guidance document is intended to provide water utilities, local conservation groups, and private businesses with a persuasive case, a road map of next-steps, and/or overarching guidance to integrate green infrastructure into decision-making. The guide is set to be released in 2013, and is just one part of a broader push by WRI and our partners to bring green infrastructure investment to a tipping point."

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Academic Criticisms and Recommendations for the US Wetland Mitigation Banking System

Academic Criticisms and Recommendations for the US Wetland Mitigation Banking System | Nature + Economics | Scoop.it

Trading wetlands no longer a deal with the devil"

MJP EcoArchives's insight:

This Biological Conservation journal article includes criticism and reccommendations for the current US wetland mitigation system from ecologists at University of Illinois.

 

Criticism 1: The emphasis on larger-scale restoration could lead to spatial arrangements that may not be optimal for society - aka, city folks might miss the wetlands they used to have, as restoration focuses on cheaper land, further away in the watershed.

 

Criticism 2: Time lags of replacing destroyed wetlands with wetlands created at the time of impact (aka "permittee-responsible mitigation"). Mitigation bankers agree with this criticism, which is why they lobbied to have a preference for mitigation from already-restored wetlands, and that's what gets preference in the 2008 Rules (that, and ILFs with already-restored wetlands).  Link to 2008 Rule: http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/guidance/wetlands/upload/2008_04_10_wetlands_wetlands_mitigation_final_rule_4_10_08.pdf ;

 

Criticism 3: Non-equivalence of the sites that are impacted and the sites that are restored. ""The deeper you look into complex ecosystems, the more nonequivalence you find," [author] Matthews said. "You could look at two forests and say they're the same. But as you look closer, you might find that species composition is different. Nutrient cycling processes, for example, may be very different in those two forests. And so as you look in finer and finer detail, you find layers and layers of nonequivalence. Where we place the value becomes critically important. The scale at which we consider two sites to be equivalent or nonequivalent and how we place value on certain uniqueness in sites becomes critical in what we accept as a truly successful restoration."

 

Recommendations: Scientists are pushing for restoration that is closer to cities to maintain value to communities; more finer-scale like-for-like requirements; more monitoring and research; and adaptive management.

 

Reality Check: The recommendations would translate to more costly restoration. And do you know who would have to pay for this? Anyone who impacts wetlands: DOTs (everyone's taxes), oil and gas developers (who have lobbyists), builders (who have lobbyists)... see what I'm getting at here? In order to change the system, you'd have to have enormous political will and evidence that the increased value to society would be offset by the increased cost to permitees.

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Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle species credit price: $4,000/credit

Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle species credit price: $4,000/credit | Nature + Economics | Scoop.it
Elderberry mitigation site nearly at capacity Porterville Recorder Tonight, the Porterville City Council will consider authorizing staff with the city's community development department to finalize an agreement for the purchase of credits in a...
MJP EcoArchives's insight:

"the city is looking at purchasing 42 credits at $4,000 apiece for a total of $168,000. An additional $10,750 would cover the cost to transplant the shrubs to the mitigation bank.

Dunlap said that each credit consist of 1,800 square feet, which equates to 1.75 acres of mitigation."

--

The city had its own mitigation site, but used up credits - and here's why it can be convenient to buy from an existing bank: "While the city could expand its existing mitigation site, it would require several studies and a significant amount of time working with the USFWS, a process that would “absolutely slow the projects down by a factor of years,” Dunlap said."

--

And then this whole VELB thing is under review:

"The USFWS announced in August of 2011 that it was undertaking a year-long review to determine whether or not to propose the Valley elderberry longhorn beetle for removal from the threatened and endangered species list."

--

 

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Why Is Timberland Planting Trees In Haiti? - Forbes

Why Is Timberland Planting Trees In Haiti? - Forbes | Nature + Economics | Scoop.it
Why Is Timberland Planting Trees In Haiti?
Forbes
Or, you can log in or sign up using Forbes. Forbes · New Posts · Most Popular 15 Things Leaders Do · Lists Promising Companies · Video Richard Branson · Francis Vorhies, Contributor.
MJP EcoArchives's insight:

"Is there a business case for planting trees?

The business case for planting trees links biodiversity responsibility on the supply side of the company to consumer preferences on its demand side. Margaret sees this as a direct link: “Besides the offsetting of our environmental impact in the region, we recognize that all things being equal, consumers will choose a company that shares their values over one that does not. This proves that we don’t have to choose between making a profit and saving the planet. We can do both.”

"

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Ecosystem Services May Shape Regulations, Report Finds

Ecosystem Services May Shape Regulations, Report Finds | Nature + Economics | Scoop.it
Ecosystem services – benefits provided by functioning ecosystems – may shape future policy and regulations as well as government expectations of the private sector, particularly on public lands, according to a report by BSR.
MJP EcoArchives's insight:

BSR's report on public trends in ES.

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Call to integrate 'ecological infrastructure' in South Africa's National Development Plan and national growth and development policies

Call to integrate 'ecological infrastructure' in South Africa's National Development Plan and national growth and development policies | Nature + Economics | Scoop.it
Studies show that strategic investment into a country's ecological infrastructure can enhance and extend the life of existing built infrastructure and reduce the need for additional human-made infrastructure, while offering considerable...
MJP EcoArchives's insight:

"...experts are calling for an institutionalised acknowledgment of the services acquired from South Africa’s ecological infrastructure and for this to be included in the National Development Plan (NDP) and the country’s growth and development policies."

 

My Q: But what does that mean? A: Dunno yet: "While most stakeholders, including the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), are in agreement that ecological infrastructure can and should play a greater role in the NDP, difficulties have emerged around exactly how this should be achieved."

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WRI's new online water risk tool

WRI's new online water risk tool | Nature + Economics | Scoop.it
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Aqueduct provides companies with comprehensive, high-resolution picture of water risks worldwide.The World Resources Institute (WRI) today ...
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CA endangered fish gets > crit habitat b/c of climate change

SANTA CRUZ -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday will finalize an expansion of critical habitat for the endangered tidewater goby, a tiny fish that often finds itself in the middle of big local disputes.
MJP EcoArchives's insight:

Interesting case of NGO suing to incr endangered species critical habitat to account for sea level rise... and thus the area where the coastal fish is going to be changing... Hmm... shouldn't it be net 0 acreage... as sea level floods one area, other area becomes habitat, so net amt of acreage wouldn't change?? 

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MI 2014 budget plan includes $3 mill for wetland mit bank funding

MI 2014 budget plan includes $3 mill for wetland mit bank funding | Nature + Economics | Scoop.it
Governor Rick Snyder has released his state budget plan for the 2014 fiscal year.
MJP EcoArchives's insight:

"An additional $3 million in bond proceeds to establish a wetland mitigation bank funding program to provide grants and loans to eligible municipalities so that wetlands can be restored, created, or preserved to compensate for unavoidable impacts to wetlands."

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What's the Added Value of an Ecosystem Services Approach for Business?

What's the Added Value of an Ecosystem Services Approach for Business? | Nature + Economics | Scoop.it
I've been up to my eyeballs in grey literature reports (eg, TEEB for Business), guidance (eg, Corporate Ecosystem Services Review) and tools (eg, InVEST) on integrating ecosystem services in the co...
MJP EcoArchives's insight:

I draft a working hypothesis on the difference between sustainability and ecosystem services. And then get to that title question.

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Sustainability Reporting Among S&P 500 Companies Increases Dramatically | Sustainable Brands

Sustainability Reporting Among S&P 500 Companies Increases Dramatically | Sustainable Brands | Nature + Economics | Scoop.it
G&A — a data partner for the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) — found that 53 percent of of S&P 500 companies published ESG/CSR/sustainability reports in 2011, compared to 19 percent in 2010.
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Final Ecosystem Goods and Services (FEGS) journal article

Final Ecosystem Goods and Services (FEGS) journal article | Nature + Economics | Scoop.it
Paul L Ringold, James Boyd, Dixon Landers, and Matt Weber. 2013. What data should we collect? A framework for identifying indicators of ecosystem contributions to human well-being.
MJP EcoArchives's insight:

This is so complex, I have no idea how this would translate to practical use by a resource manager or a corporate lands manager. Some informative snippets and some comments below

--

 

FEG definition: biophysical features and qualities with clear, direct, and intuitive meaning to people.

 

Intermediate services: "those required to produce final services. For example, for a recreational angler, stream habitat is one of many intermediate services necessary to produce fish, a final service." Intermediate are ~the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment's classification of ES. 

 

"It use useful to think of intermediate services as being linked to final services by ecological production function models that are also sensitive to natural and anthropogenic stressors." Production function is key in an analysis: it links "changes in intermediate service (eg wetland area) to expected changes in a final service (eg the incidence of natural disasters, for instance, floods)."

 

"Policy makers and other consumers of natural science information should encourage and ultimately expect ecologists to communicate ecosystem status, trends, and possible futures in terms of final ecosystem goods and services."

 

Article makes interesting note that water quality regulations focus on intermediate service, "which is then justified in terms of a final service. For example, the 2003 Strategy for Water Quality Stands and Criteria (ES EPA 2003) says: "adequate protection of fish and willife, recreational uses, and sources of drinking water [ie final services] depend on having well crafted standards and criteria [ ie typically intermediate services] in place for our waters."

 

FEGS could be used for: 1) communicating to beneficiaries, 2) analysis of social well-being, 3) green GDP

 

Paper presents 6-step process for figuring out what FEGS people like, how to pick an indicator, and what other data you'd need to turn the information into benefits.

 

Full listing of metrics developed at a workshop available at www.epa.gov/nheerl/arm/streameco/index.html and it is hella complex.

 

How FEGS/6-part process could be useful for resource managers (/fed agencies): could help resource manager understad HOW to sustain/enhance services/benefits; could ID WHERE the services/benefits are; could help prioritize WHERE to spend money to enhance services/benefits.

 

Then the examples completely lose me. They start with a somewhat straight-forward identification of metrics for beneficiaries, but then... the translation of these into an analysis are IMHO not transparent. There's a black box thing going on and I'm not even sold on the end products of the analyses. 

 

Someone needs to make a really good presentation and post it on YouTube or this is going to remain in high-falutin' academia.

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Detailed coverage of first meeting of the International Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)

Detailed coverage of first meeting of the International Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) | Nature + Economics | Scoop.it
International Institute for Sustainable Development - Reporting Services (IISD RS), Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB), UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), Biodiversity, Ecosystems,...
MJP EcoArchives's insight:

Detailed coverage and links to materials related to the first meeting of the International Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), which is akin to the IPCC, but for BES.

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Financing Green Infrastructure/Water Quality Trading in Medford Oregon

Medford receives loan from Craft3 for water program
Daily Astorian
Craft3 announced a loan to help The Freshwater Trust to develop and implement a water quality trading program for the city of Medford.
MJP EcoArchives's insight:

Pretty cool project (riparian restoration to shade streams and meet temperature reduction requirements) financed in a cool way (thorugh a Community Development Financial Institution). 

 

"As part of needing to meet temperature compliance, the city of Medford’s wastewater treatment facility has opted to engage in a restoration effort using The Freshwater Trust’s water quality trading program. To help fund the front end of this large-scale restoration project, The Freshwater Trust contacted Craft3 and Meyer Memorial Trust for financial assistance. Craft3 provided a loan to cover development and implementation costs. Meyer Memorial Trust provided The Freshwater Trust with a grant for operations and a loan guarantee to Craft3."

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