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N8 debate tackles ecosystem valuation with an online audience

L-R: Graham Harris, Topsy Rudd, Ian Bateman, Louise Heathwaite, Alan Provins L-R: Graham Harris, Topsy Rudd, Ian Bateman, Louise Heathwaite, Alan Provins

The second N8 Debate on Valuing the Environment: Looking beyond the Economics took place on the 26th May 2011 at the Lancaster Environment Centre and was a resounding success.

Chaired by Professor Louise Heathwaite, the event featured interactive questioning and input from a range of remote participants engaging online. Panel members included Ian Bateman (UEA), Allan Provins (eftec), Topsy Rudd (Cascade Consulting) and Graham Harris (Lancaster University).

Supported by over 75 delegates the debate began with an overview of the concept of ecosystem services, its role within decision making and current methods used for valuation.

Discussion topics supported the need to improve or develop new means of valuing ecosystem services that recognise both the complexity and the connectivity across different ecosystem services. Given that knowledge of our environment is imperfect, a particular challenge discussed during the debate focussed on developing methods that are not based on monetary values (recognising that value is not the same as price!) and can incorporate complexity and uncertainty. The panel highlighted the need to distinguish clearly between benefits and values, because different groups place assorted values on benefits. Values assigned are subjective and vary widely across time and space; therefore, the social sciences have a key role to play at the interface with natural sciences to develop appropriate means of 'looking beyond the economics'.

One particular point raised during the debate was the need for policy to focus on a longer-term view of 'value' to capture the full range of services and benefits that landscape stocks and flows can provide, rather than short-term localised impacts. Longer term planning will provide more thought towards broader public benefits across habitats and throughout catchments, such as flood alleviation and improved water quality.

A collective output from the event will take the form of a policy guidance document that will chart a pathway for future UK policy and action.

Feedback from attendees at the debate and the online audience on the format and use of the technology was extremely positive and has encouraged us to embed interactive web-based technology across our meetings and events portfolio more widely.

Our next N8 Debate Food Security and Sustainable Water Supplies is scheduled for Thursday September 22nd.

Wed 01 June 2011

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