Friday, August 16, 2013

Of Bundling and Baselines

Mollie Chapman studies Cultural Ecosystem Services with CHAN’s Lab.

A letter from the ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Seas) Workshop in Hamburg, Germany on integrating Cultural Ecosystem Services into Marine Spatial Planning

After giving a presentation discussing a values typology and its application to spatial expression of cultural ecosystem services, my fellow workshop participants zeroed in on an introductory slide I had quickly presented. The slide that struck a chord for a dozen researchers, indigenous leaders, practitioners and even a government fisheries manager showed a picture of a salmon and a quote from fellow lab-mate Sarah Klain’s research on Vancouver Island explaining the many types of values bundled up in fishing for a salmon and feeding it to your child.

“Especially now that I have children… when you cook food that you’ve caught with your own hands and set it down in front of your own offspring and its good food, like a salmon that’s so good for you, it’s a spiritual act...That’s like such a connection to place, to earth, doing something so tangible, eating and getting nutrients.... you’re out there just trawling this single line and to be able to catch it, to do battle with it, sometime you win, sometimes it wins, it’s more like a dance than a battle.” 
-a British Columbian Fishing Lodge Owner [emphasis my own]

In a field of typologies and categorizations, I had presented a simple concept that most lay people would intuitively understand—meaningful experiences do not occur in neat categories. We do not take separate hikes for tourism, recreation, aesthetics, inspirational and educational values; instead all these and other ‘cultural ecosystem services’ tend to be experienced together.

the author experiencing a bundle of cultural ecosystem services

While by no means earth-shattering, the idea of bundling in cultural ecosystem services research is indeed a shift in focus for a field which has traditionally focused on discrete categories and sub-categories.

Recognizing the messy, bundled nature of cultural ecosystem services shifts the focus from an effort to define, categorize, value and sum cultural ecosystem services to a focus on a set of simple questions:
1. What is important?
2. To whom is it important?
3. Where and when is it important?
4. What is needed to sustain it?
Answering these questions can help us create baseline data related to cultural ecosystem services, and more easily compare and contrast tradeoffs along side ecological and economic concerns. Development and planning proposals can then integrate this knowledge from the very beginning. For example, a company looking to site off-shore wind turbines could focus their site exploration on areas with the least potential conflict with ecologically and culturally important areas.

Baseline cultural ecosystem services data can be useful for communities too. The First Nations researchers in our group explained that they often have only 30 days to respond to a development proposal. From their baseline of cultural ecosystem services data in their community they can then use their limited time to explore issues specific to the proposal, already knowing potential issues, e.g., where burial or ceremonial sites are and which members collect medicinal plants in the area.

Given the complex nature of cultural ecosystem services, data alone is not sufficient to make decisions. But it offers a starting point for discussions and can help identify some of the essential groups that will be affected by new plans or developments. If a new shipping line is proposed, we need to know if it will impinge upon a treasured area, why that area is valued and who will be affected.

When decisions are made, the trade-offs between different types of values and stakeholder groups remain, but if we better align the way we collect and organize cultural ecosystem services data with the way people experience cultural ecosystem services we can build a more useful and relevant data set to support better decisions.

To learn more about bundles and baselines and read the full workshop report, see the Mapping Cultural Dimensions of Ecosystem Services Workshop website.

What is Marine Spatial Planning?
An increasingly popular process for environmental decision-making that seeks to include both integrative science and stakeholder values, Marine Spatial Planning involves selecting areas and times for marine activities in order to achieve economic, ecological and social goals (Dahl et al. 2009).

What are Cultural Ecosystem Services?
Ecosystem services approaches seek to link the direct and indirect ways that ecosystems benefit humans, including less tangible benefits such as cultural and spiritual values (Chan, Ban, et al. 2012). Chan, Satterfield and Goldstein define cultural ecosystem services as: “ecosystems' contributions to the non-material benefits (e.g., capabilities and experiences) that arise from human–ecosystem relationships” (2012, p.2).

Chan, K.M., Ban, N.C. & Naidoo, R., 2012. Integrating conservation planning with human communities, ecosystem services, and economics. In L. Craighead, C. Convis, & F. Davis, eds. Shaping the Future: Conservation Planning from the Bottom up - A Practical Guide for the 21st Century. Redlands, CA: ESRI Press.

Chan, K.M., Satterfield, T. & Goldstein, J., 2012. Rethinking ecosystem services to better address and navigate cultural values. Ecological economics, 74(0), pp.8–18.

Dahl, R., Ehler, C. & Douvere, F., 2009. Marine Spatial Planning, A Step-by-Step Approach toward Ecosystem-based Management. IOC Manuals and Guides, 53.

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