Valuation of Ecosystem Service and Biodiversity A Case of UNESCO Natural World Heritage Sites – A Case of Southern Africa UNESCO World Heritage Sites/Properties


Valuation of Ecosystem Services as a concept and framework for understanding the way in which nature benefits people has led to a suite of approaches that are increasingly being used to support sustainable management of biodiversity and ecosystems. However, the utility of the ecosystem services framework and associated tools for supporting biodiversity conservation are the subject of ongoing debates among natural heritage sites conservationists. In this paper, I discuss several general ways in which natural heritage sites’ ecosystem services approaches are supporting biodiversity conservation, which may not have been possible otherwise. The new opportunities that ecosystem services approaches provide for biodiversity conservation include: the development of broader constituencies for conservation and expanded possibilities to influence decision-making; opportunities to add or create new value to protected areas; and the opportunities to manage ecosystems sustainably outside of such globally protected areas. I also review areas in which such heritage sites’ ecosystem services approaches may not effectively conserve certain aspects of biodiversity. Areas of particular concern in this regard include: species without utilitarian or economic value; ecological processes that do not directly benefit people; and critical ecological functions that may be undermined in attempts to optimize a target service. Understanding the benefits and limitations of valuing ecosystem services approaches for achieving biodiversity conservation will help ensure that the finite resources available for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development are used as strategically and effectively as possible to maintain the multiple components of biodiversity and to support natural heritage sites and human well-being.

Biodiversity conservation, conservation opportunities, conservation risks, conservation targets, ecosystem services

Although natural heritage properties conservationists have long recognised the role functioning ecosystems play in maintaining biodiversity and human societies it is approximately in the last decade that the valuation concept of ‘ecosystem services and biodiversity’ has been widely adopted. The Millennium Goals on Ecosystem Assessment and Greening the Economy served to define and popularize the concept and has contributed to a number of other major international initiatives. For example, over the past several years the UNESCO World Heritage Centre (WHC) has been able to broaden its range of partnerships and intervention strategies and raise substantial extra budgetary resources. The United Nations Foundation (UNF) has played a key role in this effort, and the major international conservation non-governmental organisations like Conservation International (CI), Fauna and Flora International (FFI), Nature Conservancy (TNC), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) have figured prominently in the expanding range of activities carried out by the WHC. UNF support for biodiversity conservation has been and for the foreseeable future will continue to be a very important driver of the Centre’s work on natural heritage. The WHC will continue to maintain a strong working relationship with its advisory body on natural heritage (IUCN) and all the partners who are involved in project implementation, and further diversify the nature of the collaboration. Increasingly bilateral and multilateral donors, large foundations, and businesses are establishing well-funded programs primarily focused on protecting and/or restoring Transfrontier Conservation Areas’ ecosystem services.

While ecosystem services as a concept has been embraced by many members of UNESCO World Heritage Conservation community, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the private sector, and donors, the concept has been met with mixed enthusiasm within the biodiversity conservation community. The WHC recognizes that World Heritage sites are part of a larger and complex mosaic of multiple ecosystems with multiple uses. It also understands that, just as World Heritage sites are subject to events taking place outside their boundaries, so can areas outside World Heritage site boundaries

benefit from the ecosystem goods and services provided by the site. Under these circumstances, the WHC promotes the tighter integration of World Heritage site management agencies into the decision-making processes affecting landscape/seascape level actions. Indicative activities that are being conducted include; promoting integration of the ecosystem approach principles into all stages of planning and management of World Heritage sites; p) prioritising actions in and around World Heritage sites that integrate an ecosystem approach to sustainable development and conservation; including actions contributing to the sustainable livelihoods of local communities, which directly or indirectly assist site conservation; consider landscape/seascape level issues when monitoring the state of conservation of World Heritage sites; play a facilitating role in creating landscape/seascape management stakeholder relationships; provide technical advice to the UNDP’s Community Management of Protected Areas for Conservation (COMPACT) and Small Grants Programme (SGP) initiatives on sustainable livelihoods in and around World Heritage sites and promote and demonstrate the value of the ecosystem approach through the planning and management strategies of serial and Transboundary World Heritage sites.

Many natural heritage scientists believe that there is an obvious, harmonious marriage between the two concepts of biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services: both are based on sustainable management and conservation of nature; seek to raise awareness of the importance of nature; and seek ways to balance human needs with the persistence of natural systems. However, the details of how natural heritage sites’ biodiversity conservation fits within an ecosystem services framework and what ‘ecosystem services approaches’ mean for conservation have raised concerns among other members of the biodiversity conservation community. While it is clear that many overlaps exist between the two approaches, it is important to recognize that ecosystem services approaches and biodiversity conservation are not identical fields of thought or practice and may not always be compatible with one another. Yet, critical analyses of the synergies and divergences between the two approaches remain few for recent discussions on this topic. Thus, I believe it is important and timely to explore benefits and potential challenges in applying ecosystem services approaches for biodiversity conservation to ensure that both are used in complementary, effective manners to better support natural heritage sites and to conserve more effectively the many different dimensions of biological diversity contained therein.

This paper reviews real and potential opportunities and challenges of applying ecosystem services approaches for holistic approach in natural heritage sites’ biodiversity conservation. It also seeks to reconcile valuation of ecosystem services and biodiversity with developmental pressures. I first broadly define what is meant by natural heritage sites ecosystem services and biodiversity conservation approaches, then, identify ways in which the application of ecosystem services approaches can contribute directly to biodiversity conservation, and, finally, identify situations in which ecosystem services approaches may not be helpful if applied as a substitute for other biodiversity conservation approaches.

Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Approaches

The modern natural heritage sites conservation movement emerged in response to fundamental changes in world views concerning the nature of the relationship between humans and the natural world (Jepson & Whittaker, 2002). In its early days, biodiversity conservation was motivated by a desire to preserve sites with special meaning for the intellectual and aesthetic contemplation of nature, and by acceptance that the human conquest of nature carries with it a moral responsibility to ensure the survival of threatened life forms (Leopold, 1949; Ladle & Whittaker, 2011). To date a wide range of different natural heritage sites conservation-oriented approaches have been enacted, from local and regional scale activities, such as protected area establishment, ex-situ conservation, recovery planning for species and ecosystems, specific threat management, and biodiversity off-sets. These approaches are based on multiple values of biodiversity, including those values not related to humans.

While the valuation of ecosystem services and market-based mechanisms are among the most widely cited and used ecosystem services approaches, they represent only several of many ecosystem services approaches that exist. It is also important to note that inherent in the MA (2005) is the idea that multiple ecosystem services are necessary to fulfil the multiple dimensions of human well-being and, as demonstrated through more recent initiatives such as the trade-offs among ecosystem services can occur as a result of different policies or resource use decisions. Identifying potential trade-offs between/among ecosystem services so as to avoid potential negative impacts and unintended consequences of environment and development decisions is a distinct characteristic of many evolving ecosystem service frameworks and tools. Thus, natural heritage sites ecosystem services approaches differ from historical approaches to natural resource management in the development context because they provide a framework for anticipating a wide range of social and ecological consequences that may result from different decisions and provide tools for identifying, negotiating, avoiding, and managing potential negative trade-offs. However, this holistic understanding of and approach to managing ecosystem services is not always found in current “ecosystem service” projects or programs, even if it represents the latest thinking in the field.

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I acknowledge that there are many formal and informal approaches to biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services management, and often approaches are used that are not classified as either, even though they may benefit ecosystem services, biodiversity, or both. Furthermore, I recognize that there are many overlaps between the tools and strategies used in the different sectors. It is beyond the scope of this paper to address or compare all of these approaches; rather, I discuss some of the most commonly used ecosystem services approaches and how they might influence natural heritage sites biodiversity conservation objectives.

Benefits for Valuation of Ecosystem Services & Biodiversity Approaches for Natural Heritage Sites Conservation

Because ecosystem services are provided by various elements and combinations of biodiversity that are important to people, there are many ways in which valuation of ecosystem services and biodiversity approaches can contribute to biodiversity conservation. Here I identify three distinct ways in which such ecosystem services approaches are being and can be used to directly support biodiversity conservation: the development of broader constituencies for conservation and informing decision-making; opportunities to add or create new value to such protected areas; and the opportunities to sustainably manage ecosystems outside of such protected areas.
The notion of quantifying the ecological outputs associated with specific sites and management systems inevitably means different things to different people. For some, it opens the door to large-scale impact mitigation, through the marketing of certain services to regulated parties to “offset” damage to those resources elsewhere, as in wetland and Conservation banking and carbon trading. Others expect calculating the economic value of nature to provide more compelling justification for saving it. It may be that part of the broad appeal of the ecosystem services concept among economists, ecologists, policy wonks, and advocates is actually due to the fact that it offers such fertile ground to define and implement new paradigm according to their own expertise and value systems. Despite these complexities, the use of ecosystem services in decision-making holds considerable promise. Including the full range of ecosystem benefits and costs may lead to better decisions in the long term by encouraging decision-makers to balance the interests of nature and society with those of the industry or agency responsible for development and/or management. The concepts also useful for helping to manage the diverse expectations stakeholders have of public lands.

Broadening Natural Heritage Constituencies for Conservation and Informing Decision-making

The ecosystem services framework has been embraced by a broad range of stakeholders, some of which have not engaged with the biodiversity conservation community (Slootweg& van Beukering, 2008; Goldman &Tallis, 2009; Houdet et al., 2012). This rapid uptake is most likely because broad understanding and appreciation of the value of ecosystem services makes them relevant to certain types of decision-making that might have previously ignored biodiversity on its own. For example, the for-profit sector is embracing the concept of ecosystem services because such a framework allows consideration of new business opportunities that might replace unsustainable practices, in contrast to only engaging with biodiversity in terms of regulatory compliance, impact mitigation, and/or reputational liability (e.g. Houdet et al., 2012). However, analyses and evaluation regarding the ways in which business practices and performance are actually changing as a result of adopting ecosystem services approaches are needed.
Ecosystem services approaches also present opportunities to build constituencies for biodiversity and ecosystem management with communities who live within, in the proximity or surrounding areas of natural heritage sites, but who may not be willing to support biodiversity conservation. For example, outside of the Victoria Falls/Mosi-oa-Tunya and Mana Pools Natural World Heritage sites in Zimbabwe, Wildlife Safari Tour Operators have not established a Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) contract with a respective institutions and or communities that require them to help protect wildlife and to

maintain grasslands for wildlife than converting them to tourism without their benefits. If the community introduces the contracts, the tour operators will for example pay the institutions for their efforts in maintaining a cultural ecosystem service, wildlife and or biodiversity that is critical for their business. This cultural service will assist in generating a new revenue stream for them, which would help compensate them for their efforts in engaging in natural resource practices that support conservation. Traditional biodiversity conservation approaches may not have worked here due to the villagers’ suspicions about hidden conservation agendas; a suspicion not uncommon in this part of the world where some people believe conservationists have prioritized the needs of species over the needs of extremely poor people (Brockington, 2002; Sachedina& Nelson, 2012).
Another example of how ecosystem services can open the door to constituencies who are not interested in supporting biodiversity per se can be seen in the Transboundary (Zambia/Zimbabwe) Victoria Falls Natural World Heritage Site, which falls within a biodiversity hotspot. In these areas, pressures to expand development into sub-catchment areas are extremely high and politicians in the area were averse to biodiversity conservation due to the tension between conservation versus development issues. For this reason, the Joint Technical Committee opted to undertake a Strategic Environment Assessment, focusing on the value of ecosystem services in the area together with sustainable carrying capacities of such developments. The study highlighted the preservation of the much needed aesthetic values of the property and the need to continue preserving such. Politicians are now more supportive of protecting the natural environment since they have realized that the area’s ecosystems, which had traditionally been prioritized for biodiversity, have considerable economic values. Thus, following the study, the Joint Technical Committee embarked upon a negotiating process to identify sensitive ecosystems that should be conserved; linkages between ecosystems; areas that could be developed without negatively impacting ecosystem services; and management actions that should be implemented in order to conserve biologically important ecosystems and ensure sustainable use of biodiversity resources to benefit the status of the property and the States Parties (Slootweg& van Beukering, 2008).
The ecosystem services approach applied in this case informed decision-making around development planning that resulted in actions aimed to support conservation of key ecosystems in this biologically rich area, a situation where biodiversity alone did not present a sufficient reason to manage the area’s critical ecosystems sustainably. However, it is important to note that while it has been effective strategy in this case, the use of economic valuation studies of ecosystem services has resulted in mixed outcomes with respect to their impact on policy and practice (Slootweg& van Beukering, 2008; Naidoo et al., 2009; Barbier, 2012). Valuation studies that are designed at the scale of decision-making and/or the scale of an imminent threat or problem, developed with local stakeholders in the context of prevailing social, cultural and political factors and challenges, and presented in ways that are useful to decision-makers, as demonstrated in the case of this heritage site, may have more traction with respect to influencing policies and practices. However, it is also important to note that the social importance and economic values of ecosystem services are a few among many factors that may influence negotiating and decision-making over the environment and development and, thus, regardless of how compelling the results of ecosystem service assessments or valuations may be, other factors may ultimately be given more weight.

Ecosystem-based management (EBM), with a primary focus on ecosystem services, can also help broaden constituencies and influence decision-making to support conservation. EBM is an integrated approach to natural resource management that considers the entire ecosystem, including humans, and has the goal of “maintaining an ecosystem in a healthy, productive and resilient condition so that it can provide the services humans want and need” (McLeod et al., 2005). It differs from other approaches to conservation or natural resource management that focus on a single species or sector, by considering the complex interactions between humans and the living and non-living environment across multiple spatial and temporal scales (Clarke & Jupiter, 2010; Curtin &Prelezzo, 2010). While there are many ways in which EBM has been applied, a common element to EBM applications is an ecosystem services perspective (Agardyet al., 2011). Thus, the protection of biodiversity for its own sake is not the primary focus of EBM, but biodiversity can benefit from the implementation of EBM approaches and, in fact, biodiversity conservation is often identified by stakeholders as an important goal of the EBM planning process. For example, the EBM framework has led to the implementation of community-based management plans in Zimbabwe (CAMPFIRE) and has led to the expansion of protected areas, which have been implemented to benefit people through the sustainable wildlife sport hunting. However, these projects have also helped conserve biodiversity in places where the value of biodiversity alone may not have been sufficient to encourage conservation of critical areas. By emphasizing the social, cultural, and economic importance of

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ecosystems for people, the EBM approach has been shown to bring disparate groups together to collaborate (Price et al., 2009) and develop management plans, and can persuade decision-makers to take actions that support conservation of ecosystems (Clarke & Jupiter, 2010).

Prioritised opportunities to Increase Natural Heritage Sites’ Value

Natural heritage sites areas can be prioritized to protect different biodiversity values such as endemism, species richness and rarity (Brooks et al., 2004: Dietz & Czech, 2005; Dudley, 2008). Such protected areas are specifically designated for a conservation purpose, but often generate other benefits due to the ecosystem services they provide (Dudley, 2008).

Because many protected areas focus on restoring or maintaining unmodified or semi-modified areas, they are often sources of multiple ecosystem services that may be lost when natural systems are simplified. In particular, regulatory services, also known as “invisible services” because they are hard to measure and are not directly consumed by humans, tend to be among the services most impacted by such transformations and, if lost, may have high costs on society and may be extremely expensive to repair or recover (TEEB, 2010). Valuing these and other services provided by intact, functioning ecosystems can create another reason to fund and maintain protected areas, which is increasingly important as funding for biodiversity conservation becomes limited (Emerton et al., 2006; Turner et al., 2007; Turner et al., 2012) and growing population pressures make it increasingly difficult to maintain protected areas for the sake of biodiversity alone (Mora & Sale, 2011). During times of increasing land pressures, economic austerity, and a global human population larger than it has ever been historically, analyses such as this, that demonstrate the value of such protected areas for providing multiple economic and social benefits to humanity, are critical for generating and/or maintaining broad support for their persistence.

Sustainable Management of Ecosystems Outside of Natural Heritage Sites Areas

Protected areas are one of the dominant tools for biodiversity conservation (Dudley, 2008), but because they cover only 12% of the planet’s surface and are often under-funded, on their own, they will not conserve all of the world’s biodiversity and ecological processes (Mora & Sale, 2011). Thus, there is need for valuing Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity approaches to complement the traditional protected area system in surrounding areas that can sustain biodiversity and ecological processes, and also be compatible with any human development needs.

In many cases, the importance of ecosystem services may help incentivize conservation and sustainable management of lands and waters outside of protected areas. For example, power generation in Zimbabwe, damming of Zambezi River waters has been undertaken upstream for power generation (a provisioning service), which has also enhanced other ecosystem services such as the regulation of water quality and increased the diversity of food and non-food fish species (Hickset al., 2004, Grabowski & Peterson, 2007). Similarly, EBM aims to conserve ecosystem services through the sustainable management of land and water resources and by rebuilding or maintaining ecological connectivity across a site(s), which might not necessarily be configured, prioritized, or protected to maximize biodiversity as a primary objective (Leslie & McLeod, 2007), but may nevertheless benefit many species and ecosystems outside of areas prioritized for biodiversity conservation. Mechanisms such as PES also have been used to support and fund sustainable land-uses that benefit biodiversity outside such protected areas. For example, the Victoria/Zambezi National Parks part of the heritage site and managing entity receives payment from settlers and tour operators in the area for land-use practices that contribute to enhanced sustainable tourism development and a balance between tourism development and biodiversity conservation. While the main focus of this program is enhancing sustainable land-use management practices, improved land-use and tourism development and water quality will most likely improve habitat with benefits for terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity improvements that the biodiversity community does not have to fund (i.e. Pagiola et al., 2010).

Challenges Using Ecosystem Services & Biodiversity Approaches for Natural Heritage Sites

Despite the increasing adoption of ecosystem services as a framework and suite of tools by the natural heritage sites conservation community, there are still concerns over the application and efficacy of these approaches for conserving all of the components of biodiversity that the conservation community is

charged with protecting. The fundamental reason for these concerns is that at their core, ecosystem services approaches prioritize those processes that contribute to human wellbeing. This is very different from a biodiversity conservation approach, which is concerned with identifying conservation management actions to promote the persistence of all biodiversity, including species or ecosystems that do not have an identified value for humans (biodiversity being defined as the variability among living organisms from all sources including inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems (Margules&Pressey, 2000, Possingham et al., 2001). If ecosystem services approaches are applied by natural heritage sites conservation planners and managers to achieve biodiversity conservation outcomes, three areas may require special attention: species without utilitarian or economic value; ecological processes that do not directly benefit people; and the ecological functions that may be undermined amidst attempts to optimize key services.

Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity Approaches for Natural Heritage

While the use of ecosystem services approaches can result in the sustainable management or protection of a considerable number of conservation ‘targets’ (e.g. species, ecosystems), it is unlikely to capture all of them. This is because valuing ecosystems for the services they provide to people will likely result in enhanced conservation for only those species that are ecosystem service providers (Luck et al., 2009). While this will be beneficial for some species and habitats (e.g. species that are pollinators or pest regulators; species or habitats with cultural value), many taxa that do not provide services that are ‘useful’ or ‘valuable’ to people will not be prioritised and, as such, may not benefit from ecosystem services approaches. Research has shown that rare or endemic species often do not have an important functional role in a community as common species play the dominant role in the system (Cardinale et al., 2006; Naeem, 2012). These less common species may not receive adequate attention if ecosystem services approaches are employed, but these are the very species that are often viewed as the most important targets for Natural heritage sites’ biodiversity conservation (Garnett et al., 2011; Watson et al., 2011a,b).

Maximising species diversity is another common target in conservation planning (Klein et al., 2008; Watson et al., 2011a,b) and there is increasing evidence to show that while species richness is positively correlated to a number of ecosystem processes (and an increase in ecosystem processes leads to enhanced provision of ecosystem services), the increase in ecosystem processes often reaches a plateau at moderate levels of species richness (Balvanera et al., 2006). When considered spatially, there is also a lack of spatial concordance between some important ecosystem services (e.g. carbon, water) and species richness measures (Naidoo et al., 2008; Venter et al., 2009). The lack of clear, consistent spatial relationships between species richness and ecosystem services provisioning highlights a generic weakness in solely applying ecosystem services approaches because the most species-rich sites may not necessarily be those prioritised to maximise ecosystem services (as moderately species-rich areas may be of equal value) (Cardinale et al., 2006).

A related concern is that the ecological processes that generate the goods and services valued by humans are not identical to those processes required for the long-term conservation of biodiversity (Dunn, 2010). Thus, approaches that solely value those ecological processes that provide services that support human wellbeing are likely to lead to situations where other critically important ecological processes are not prioritised. This may have serious ramifications for biodiversity. The management of fire for ecosystem services versus biodiversity conservation is a good example of this. In many countries, such as the United States of America, Australia, and Israel, fire is a serious threat to human life and infrastructure(Gill & Stephens, 2009), but it is also a critical ecological process for many species (Driscoll et al., 2010a,b). It has been shown that the fire regimes designed to reduce the chances of negative impacts on humans are often inappropriate for native biodiversity and can lead to major changes in community structure, including a substantial risk of extinction (Fisher et al., 2009b). Other examples include flooding and disease outbreaks both of which play key roles in ecological dynamics but are often the subject of efforts to eliminate such (Brouwer et al., 2007).

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Undermining Biodiversity or Critical Ecological Functions Of Natural Heritage Sites

A considerable concern exists around the fact that many PES programs have been implemented to enhance one rather than multiple services. If not planned well, with a consideration of potential trade-

offs, this approach could come at the expense of biodiversity. For example, maximizing carbon sequestration through tree plantations could result in the loss of ecosystem functions related to water quantity (stream flows), soil health (salinization and acidification) and biodiversity (Jackson et al., 2005). While the policy mechanism known as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) was designed to address many of the concerns associated with the perverse environmental impacts of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), many natural heritage sites conservationists and practitioners have been concerned about the risks of REDD on biodiversity. These risks include the concerns that decreasing deforestation in high carbon forests may shift natural resource use to low-carbon forests or non-forest ecosystems of high biodiversity value; may result in agricultural intensification through methods that are harmful to biodiversity; and/or may result in the use of forest management methods that promote the growth of high-yield or non-native species (Epple et al., 2011).

However, at the 16th Conference of the Parties in December 2010, parties to the United Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) adopted the decisions known as the Cancun Agreements, which include a list of safeguards for REDD that address the potential negative environmental impacts associated with REDD and affirm that the implementation of REDD activities should be carried out in accordance with these safeguards (UN-REDD, 2010). The broader ecosystem services community is also working to address potential perverse outcomes of single service PES programs on biodiversity through approaches like “bundling” and “stacking”, which aim to create financial incentives for conserving multiple ecosystem services and/or biodiversity and to promote more holistic ecosystem management practices (Fox et al., 2011; Cooley &Olander, 2011; Deal et al., 2012) .

In general, PES programs that preserve existing ecosystems are likely to have the greatest positive impact on biodiversity, along with those programs that aim to restore degraded ecosystems. In contrast, PES programs that encourage the substitution of one heritage site land use for another may have lower benefits for biodiversity (Pagiola et al., 2010). However, it is important to note that, as in the case with REDD, the impacts of PES on biodiversity through leakage (i.e. displacement of activities from one site to another) could lead to potential negative impacts on biodiversity offsite. So, as with any natural resource management based approach, the benefits and risks of a tool, like PES, for ecosystem services management and biodiversity conservation must be considered carefully before being implemented. Ideally, a biodiversity and ecosystem services tradeoffs analysis would accompany the design of any PES project or other ecosystem services project aimed at enhancing one or several ecosystem services.


Many ecosystem services approaches represent new opportunities for the sustainable management of species and ecosystems. However, it is important to recognize that while biodiversity is intimately connected to ecosystems services through various relationships (Mace et al., 2012), ecosystem services approaches and biodiversity conservation approaches may be complementary, but are not always identical pathways for achieving conservation or sustainable natural resource management. In many cases, the two approaches will be compatible and mutually reinforcing, delivering positive results for conservation targets, even if biodiversity was not the original or primary objective, and vice versa. However, it is important to understand the conditions in which these two approaches do not lead to the same outcomes so that increasingly scarce resources for biodiversity conservation may be used to target those elements of natural heritage sites biodiversity that may not be conserved otherwise. This divergence in outcomes is most concerning with respect to species, ecosystems, and ecological process that may fall through the cracks of ecosystem services frameworks, particularly very rare or endemic species that may not play important functional roles in an ecosystem. When utilising ecosystem services approaches for conservation, natural heritage sites planners and managers must be realistic and recognise that these approaches are not all-encompassing and there are going to be gap species, ecosystems, and ecological processes whose conservation will require tools tailored to address those issues.

Unfortunately, application of strict conservation approaches has not resulted in the achievement of many of the world’s global conservation targets: none of the CBD targets for 2010 were met and species and ecosystems are declining more rapidly than ever. Thus, it is clear that in addition to the continued use of proven conservation tools such as protected areas, additional approaches will be necessary to achieve future conservation targets. Ecosystem services approaches have the potential to contribute significantly to achieving many natural heritage sites conservation goals. The respective natural heritage sites’ conservation and ecosystem services communities still have much to learn about the most effective and strategic application of these tools for conserving biodiversity and sustainably managing ecosystem services. But, at this stage, it is important to recognise the potential of ecosystem services approaches to contribute to biodiversity conservation and to complement other conservation tools and methods, while recognizing that there will be limitations to using ecosystem services approaches for achieving certain conservation targets, such as the protection of rare species, endemic species, and species or habitats without utilitarian value. Thus, we will continue to need focused biodiversity conservation approaches alongside new and evolving ecosystem services approaches if we are to conserve the full range of genes, species, and ecosystems that are important for all life on earth and future generations.


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