Dear Friend, congratulations! You have completed the entire course on Forest Ecosystem Services! We hope that you have enjoyed participating in it as much as we enjoyed preparing and delivering it. We also hope that you have learned a lot of new and relevant things on how to research, conserve, and manage forest ecosystems sustainably, as well as on how to engage other stakeholders into these important activities.
Speaking about the learning journey, let us review the key learning points from each of the three chapters of the course.
We began the course with the chapter on Economic Valuation of Forest Ecosystem Services. There, we learnt that ecosystems are complex combinations of living organisms, non-living components, and interrelations among them. We then discovered that ecosystems provide a variety of benefits to people and the natural environment, and these benefits are called ecosystem services. Researchers group these services into four large categories: provisioning, regulating, cultural, and supporting.
After that, we understood that ecosystem services bring not only direct use benefits to people, but can also supply indirect use gains to people's wellbeing and welfare. Furthermore, some people appreciate ecosystems just for their existence in the present, as well as for future generations to use. Altogether, the use and non-use values of ecosystem services form the Total Economic Value of that ecosystem.
Finally, in the first chapter we talked about how to estimate and demonstrate the Total Economic Value of a forest ecosystem. We discovered that it can be done with different Economic Valuation techniques, such as revealed preference and stated preference techniques, and specific methods, such as hedonic pricing, travel cost, contingent valuation, and choice modelling. The results of applying these economic valuation techniques and methods can then be used in strategic planning of conservation and sustainable management of forests ecosystems.
The second chapter of the course focused on Strategic Planning of Sustainable Forest Management. Firstly, we looked at different ways we, humans, use forest ecosystems. We saw that our activities in forests and on the land they grow on threatens the health, stability, and resilience of forests. The common threats include overconsumption of natural resources, deforestation, poaching, waste pollution, land conversion, forest fires, invasive species, effects of climate change, and other ways people disturb the fragile balance within forest ecosystems. Indeed, in spite of all the valuable benefits that forests provide to us, we tend to exploit their ecosystems quite excessively and unsustainably.
Therefore, after talking about anthropogenic threats to forest ecosystems, we switched to examining how we can protect forests and manage them sustainably. Here, we learnt about the ValuES Six-step IES approach to integrating ecosystem services into development and management planning. The six steps of the framework include: Scoping and setting the stage; Screening and prioritizing ecosystem services; Identifying conditions, trends, and trade-offs; Appraising the institutional and cultural framework; Preparing better decision-making; And implementing change. By following these steps, we can prepare and implement a strong development and management plan that could ensure conservation and sustainable management of our chosen forest.
However, in our strategic planning process we may end up with not one but several options for forest management. To help us choose the most realistic, beneficial, and cost-effective one, we learnt about Cost-benefit Analysis. By using the economic values of forest ecosystem services, we can compare the gains of protecting the forest now and in the future with the costs of doing so for each of our alternative options. Then, we can choose the option with the highest net present value that fits our budget, resources, and time, and focus on making this particular proposal happen. In addition, we briefly talked about multi-stakeholder analysis that we can also apply to account for ethical and moral considerations in our decision-making on which forest management scenario to pursue.
From there, we transitioned to the third chapter of the course dedicated to Stakeholder Engagement into Sustainable Forest Management. There, we learnt the definition of a stakeholder, which is any individual, organization, company, or public authority, who may influence, be influenced by, or perceive to be influenced by a certain decision, activity, or an outcome of a proposal, policy, or project. We then talked about the process of stakeholder analysis and the preparation of stakeholder register. For the register, we listed the key data that we need to collect about the stakeholders included there, namely their interests, attitude, positions, level of power and influence, and their interrelations among themselves. These data are usually elicited from surveys and interviews with each group of stakeholders included in the register.
Afterwards, we discussed how we can communicate with our stakeholders effectively and convincingly, as well as raise awareness about the issues faced by forest ecosystem in question and educate the stakeholders on ecosystem services and sustainable forest management. In our discussion, we looked at the Big Five general principles of effective stakeholder communication. They are: Focus on each stakeholder and adapt messages to specific needs, Create clear and attractive messages, Diversify channels used to deliver messages to stakeholders, Consult with stakeholders and listen to their feedback, and Include Call to action in all communication and educational messages. By following these five principles, we can elaborate and implement a targeted and effective communication strategy for each of our stakeholders.
Finally, at the end of the course, we raised the topic of stakeholder engagement into conservation and sustainable management of forest ecosystems. There, we talked about the need to prioritize stakeholders to be actively engaged and learnt how to do it with the Interest-influence Matrix. The four quadrants of the matrix serve as places, where to put stakeholders from the register based on their levels of interest and influence, as well as indicators of how much effort we should apply to engage the stakeholders in each quadrant. The least important quadrant suggests us only to monitor and occasionally inform stakeholders listed within it. The interested quadrant recommends us to continuously communicate and completely inform individuals and organizations within it. The quadrant of influencers advises us to anticipate their needs, fullfill their requests, and keep these influencers satisfied. And the most important quadrant for us, the one of key players, indicates that these are the stakeholders, who we should manage closely and thoroughly. With the completed Interest-influence Matrix at hand, we can be sure to spend our resources, efforts, and time on engaging only the most interested and influential stakeholders into our sustainable forest management plan.
These were the key learning points from the entire course. We hope that you have found them interesting and useful for your professional activity or personal interest in conservation and sustainable management of forest ecosystems. Moreover, we encourage you to channel the knowledge, methods, and tools from the course into protecting a forest that you use and value. In such way, you will not only apply the things you have learnt into practice, but also create meaningful positive change in the forest ecosystem and the local community that are important to you.
So, the course has ended. But it does not mean we cannot continue discussing the topic of forest ecosystem services further. In fact, we invite you to connect with us via our main website, our blog, as well as via social networks: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We also ask you to write us what you think about the course and how you apply your new knowledge in practice. Finally yet importantly, we encourage you to follow us on social networks to be the first one to receive news and updates about the next courses from MEGA.
For now, thank you very much for being with us throughout the course!
We wish you all the best in your further learning and career development!
May the Nature be with you!