An ecosystem values framework to support decision makers in the Coral Triangle
The comprehensive valuation of ecosystems and the services they provide can be defined as the process of eliciting, synthesizing, interpreting and communicating knowledge and data about the ways in which people relate to and derive meaning, fulfilment and wellbeing from ecosystems (Gómez-Baggethun and Martín-López, 2015). This information needs to be readily accessible to decision makers and stakeholders and the content must be transparent, relevant, replicable and credible to justify choices and actions especially in highly contested spaces (e.g., where interests and values are ambiguous or in conflict). This leads to approaches to the comprehensive, inclusive, and legitimate valuing of ecosystems that provides disaggregated/granular information on a range of value types so that decision makers can integrate the information and make decisions with due consideration for the suite of values at stake. This reflects four premises of integrated valuation of ecosystem services (GómezBaggethun and Martín-López, 2015): (1) consistent combination of different valuation languages; (2) interdisciplinarity and methodological pluralism; (3) integration of different forms of knowledge (e.g. formal scientific knowledge; traditional ecological knowledge); and (4) consideration of values across various levels of societal organization (scale) (Reid et al., 2016). It is important to understand what it is about ecosystems that humans value, and how these
values can be more effectively elicited, captured and articulated (quantitatively or qualitatively) in assessments of the costs and benefits (trade-offs) of developmental, conservation and adaptation options/choices. Discussions with stakeholders in PNG and the Solomon Islands indicated that, currently, decision-makers have little information on ecosystem values to make decisions (Skewes and Wise, 2015b; Meharg et al., 2016). Since most decisions have a strong spatial component (sites for industrial development, protected areas, local human use), reliable and accessible spatial information is critical (maps and computer based spatial data inventory (SDI) for enabling effective decision making.
The primary focus of this project has been the adaptive co-design and co-development of a comprehensive and effective values framework (Figure 1-1) with key stakeholders to inform and support decisions about the allocation and use of resources (terrestrial and ocean) that have impacts on marine and coastal ecosystems in the Coral Triangle. These efforts have initially focused on the “Seascape” of the Bismarck Sea in Papua New Guinea (PNG). The values framework will be designed to capture a full range of values for stakeholders at different spatial scales, and show connectivity to dependent ecosystem features. The values data will be designed for immediate use by relevant stakeholders, but also for future deployment of additional pressure asset interaction analysis and improved decision support tools.
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