Ecosystem markets rising
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is creating the first office dedicated solely to market-based conservation strategies.
The new Office of Ecosystem Markets and Services will create uniform guidelines for the numerous markets, focusing initially on carbon sequestration standards for agriculture and forestry. Market-based approaches to conservation assign an economic value to ecosystem services such as erosion control, flood buffers and clean air. In some circumstances, developers are allowed to pollute or destroy a valuable habitat if the affected ecological services are “offset” through separate habitat preservation, water conservation or greenhouse gas reductions.
Supporters of the approach praise it for promotion of conservation funding at a time when financial resources are scarce, while critics say the market should be a last resort, and that governments are neglecting their duty to protect ecosystems.