Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A new national network for ecosystems services

The preservation of the essential services provided by Australia’s hugely diverse ecosystems has been a major focus of the Australia21 Board since 2002. Over recent years the Australia21 ecosystems team has put its efforts into promoting the development of a National Ecosystem Service Strategy (NESS) and a National Ecosystem Services Network (NESN). This work is led by Australia21 Director, Geoff Gorrie. The team includes Australia21 Fellows Professor Mike Archer and Dr Steven Cork, Australia21 Scholars Peter Ampt, Phillipa Rowland and Simone Maynard, Dr Jeremy Thompson, Dr Allan Dale and another of our Directors, Professor Bob Douglas.

Evidence of the diminishing health of Australian ecosystems is unfortunately not hard to find, with decline in soil fertility, fisheries stocks, water quality and quantity and loss of carbon sinks that help local/regional climate regulation. There is both national and global urgency about the need for a coherent strategy to preserve ecosystems and the services they provide to humans.

Great potential can be generated by fostering enthusiasm and passion from innovators and bringing them together in a flexible network that brings together the interests, skills and capacities of Federal and State Governments, the private sector, research communities, local regional bodies and civil society. An approach that encourages collaboration and builds on existing activity, while creating opportunities for a broad consistent approach to the national valuation of the essential suite of services could, Australia 21 believes, contribute substantially to the solution of many natural resource issues including biodiversity conservation, bio-sequestration of carbon and indigenous employment.

In its preliminary proposal for a NESN, the Australia21 Ecosystems team is suggesting that NESN members would have the responsibility for overseeing the data needs, the research activity, and the development of a framework for a coordinated regional approach to the assessment and management of ecosystem services across the nation. Australia 21 is currently seeking support from funding agents, to undertake discussions and a roundtable with the many stakeholders who would be needed to make the national strategy operational.

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