Welcome back, dear Friend! In the last training, we saw the many ways, in which we, humans, affect the forest ecosystem. And usually these are not very positive ones, like overconsumption of natural resources, destruction of habitats and loss of biodiversity, waste pollution, and many others. In this way, we can ask a question like, “If forests give us so many benefits and so much value, then why do we keep polluting and destroying them?”.
One of the main reasons behind overconsumption of natural resources in a forest and their overextraction is the prioritization of direct economic gains from the forest and undervaluation of indirect use values and non-use values of natural resources in the forest and of the forest ecosystem. What decision-makers in forest management see is direct benefits that they can get from cutting wood in a forest. And what market tells them is the economic incentive of the more wood you cut and sell, the more economic gain, like profits, you can make.
At the same time, those indirect use values and non-use values that offer long-term benefits to people are usually not priced and do not have visible real market for them. For example, how can you trade clean air in a forest that gives me health benefits? Or how can you sell on a market the pleasure of being in a forest and enjoying all this beauty? Such “invisibility” of long-term gains and non-use values of a forest actually leads to overconsumption of its resources and prioritization of “cut-and-sell” strategy to forest management. And if there is more than one economic agent that wants to gain from the forest in terms of its provisioning services, then this “cut-and-sell” strategy becomes a race to forest overexploitation.
But what can we do in this unfavourable and unsustainable scenario, where everyone loses in the end, especially forests? We can certainly conduct economic valuation research, which we discussed in one of the previous trainings, and demonstrate the benefits and value of forests translated into the “language” of money for everyone to understand. However, it is not enough to convince decision-makers and forest managers to shift to the sustainable “dimension” of forest management.
What we need to do is to integrate the values of ecosystem services of a forest into forest management plans, policies, strategies, and other relevant documents and acts, so that all the stakeholders of the forest could clearly see the difference between the unsustainable short-term “cut-and-sell” scenario and the sustainable long-term forest management scenario. Only in this case, they can see the economic gains from the latter strategy and then ideally shift their decisions towards the desirable scenario.
How can we do it? Well, we can certainly use the so-called Six-step framework for integrating ecosystem services into development and management planning (IES framework). This framework was developed by the organisation GIZ within its project ValuES, and you can find detailed information about the framework and the entire project on the website of the organisation. Here we will just mention briefly some key aspects and steps of this Six-step framework.
As the name of the Six-step framework suggests, this approach to integrating ecosystem services into development planning consists of six steps. These are:
1) Scoping and setting the stage.
2) The second one is screening and prioritizing ecosystem services.
3) Then we talk about identifying conditions, trends, and trade-offs.
4) Then we move to appraising the institutional and cultural framework.
5) We prepare better decision-making.
6) And finally, we implement change.
Figure 1. Six steps of the IES framework / approach developed by GIZ within the ValuES project.
Let me explain each of these steps one by one.
Initially, we want to set the stage for our assessment, identify the objectives we want to meet with our approach to integrating ecosystem services into development planning, and specify what we want to achieve in the end. Generally, we want to find answers to two questions. First one is “What is the area we are working with?” And second one is “What are the issues we are dealing with and want to resolve?” For example, the area we can choose to be the Codru forest. The issue that we want to resolve is deforestation and loss of forest cover due to “invasion” of agricultural fields. And the ideal situation that we want to have in the end is stopping of the deforestation and degradation of the forest while not undermining the economic and social stability and wellbeing of people residing nearby.
When we have the focus area established and the issues that we are targeting worked out, we can bring in ecosystem services. Here we want to answer such questions as “What are the most important ecosystem services in our targeted forest / area?”, “How they are dependent upon and how they affect economic activities in that forest?”, and “How can our proposal for forest management and development plan impact them or be dependent upon them?” So, here we want to look into all the ecosystem services that there are in the forest, compare them with the economic activities that there are (for example, some pesticide and herbicide usage on agricultural fields) near the Codru forest, and determine which ecosystem services we should focus on in our forest development and management proposal.
Having identified concrete ecosystem services that we are focusing on, we can now work with dynamics of these ecosystem services depending on the driving factors that affect them. Specifically, we want to see the supply and demand changes for ecosystem services in our forest and what these supply and demand are driven by, what driving forces and motives are behind them. So, in terms of our Codru forest, we can see how the demand for agricultural expansions changes and how this affects the forest, and at the same time, how the demand for forest ecosystem services, such as pollination, changes and affects the farmers’ needs regarding the forest. Doing this analysis, we can determine both the “snapshot”, the current situation of ecosystem services, and their dynamics into the future.
At the fourth step in our process of integrating ecosystem services into development planning, we want to get a closer look at who the stakeholders behind the dynamics of demand and supply for forest ecosystem services are. Specifically, we want to know what their needs, demands, and unspoken desires in relation to the ecosystem services of our forest are. Also, what are the rules and regulations existing between them that affect the forest ecosystem services? Finally, are there any conflicts or opportunities for cooperation between these stakeholders that could push forward our proposal for a forest management plan? Basically, the questions that we want to find answers to are “Who are the main stakeholders, whom we should approach and who depend on the ecosystem services in our forest and affect them the most?”, “What are their motives, positions, and needs in relation to forest ecosystem services?”, and “Are there any conflicts or opportunities for cooperation that we could use in terms of promoting and implementing our forest management proposal?”.
In the fifth step of our Six-step framework, we capitalize on all the previous steps of the process in order to prepare our proposal of sustainable forest management. Here we want to see all the policy options and strategies that we could use and to select the most suitable and feasible ones for our particular area. We also want to see how we could wrap it up in a plan or proposal and communicate it to our targeted stakeholders. Here is actually a very good place to bring in economic valuation of ecosystem services in order to strengthen our message and to make it more scientific, credible, reliable, and so on for communication to our targeted stakeholders.
Finally, the sixth step of our framework and process of integrating ecosystem services into development planning is implementing change. Here we want to see exactly what actions and steps we need to make in order to make our proposal for forest management a reality, who the stakeholders that should be involved are, who will be responsible for what action, whether there are necessary financial and human resources to implement our proposal, and so on. We also want to prepare the budget for the proposal of the forest management strategy, the concrete action plan, and the communication strategy that we will use to share our knowledge about ecosystem services and to inform stakeholders about the need to do sustainable forest management. The final questions that we need to ask ourselves are “What are the concrete actions that need to be implemented?”, “Who are the people that should be involved and what should be their responsibilities?”, and “What are the measures that we need to undertake in order to ensure monitoring and communication of the results of our proposal?”.
However, what if during the implementation of the Six-step framework we find out that we have several feasible policy options and strategies that we could choose from? Certainly, we have limited financial and human resources and time to choose all of them. We need to select the most feasible and efficient scenario and go forward with it. But how can we do it? Also, how can we argument our choice to our targeted stakeholders? These are very good questions, and we will approach them in the next training of our course. See you there!