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CIELAP's 4th Partnering for Sustainability Workshop

Achieving Resilient Agricultural Systems: Innovation, People and Partnerships
November 13 and 14, 2008

Valuing landscape services - Description of Sub-Theme

Healthy and functioning ecosystems provide a wide array of goods and services to the Canadian economy. These includes tangible market goods (food, fibre, fuel, fresh water, etc.) as well as more intangible processes (waste assimilation, pollination, carbon sequestration, nutrient cycling, etc.) and non-material benefits (nature appreciation, etc.). These are often referred to as ecosystem goods and services (EG&S). While most market goods yielded from ecosystems are recognized widely as indispensable for economic development, many ecosystem services have historically not been recognized in the market system. Because most ecosystem services are not fully “captured” by commercial markets they are often not factored into land-use decisions and other decisions made by agricultural producers and governments. Valuing ecosystem services in monetary terms, however, presents many challenges; for instance, how do we put a price on the service of pollination provided by bats, bees and other insects?

A truly sustainable agricultural system in Canada that incorporated the values of EG&S into its design would stress the multi-functional role of agriculture. Farmers own large land-holdings replete with wetlands, forests, and other ecosystems that provide Canadians with a myriad of benefits beyond food. If farmers were compensated for the maintenance of these ecosystems, the ecosystems could be treated as assets and would help to diversify farmer incomes. The services provided by the land, including the wind and the sun, could provide further sources of farmer income if tapped for their energy and other benefits. Cisterns for water collection and practices for grey-water recycling are other potential beneficial schemes. The greater diversity and stability in farmer incomes that would come from protecting EG&S could, in turn, strengthen and reinvigorate rural communities.

Participants at CIELAP’s workshop will share and discuss case studies to explore what elements and practices can contribute to valuing EG&S and supporting the multi-functional role of agriculture with the ultimate aim of fostering resilience and advancing sustainable development.

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