Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity

Developing excellence in environmental innovation

Ecosystem services and biodiversity are the benefits that humans receive from nature. This includes such things as climate regulation, flood control and water purification and habitat for wildlife, food, fibre and fuel, as well as the spiritual and recreational benefits of nature. All of these services provide benefit to human health and well-being.

Markets for ecosystem services and biodiversity are those in which the transactions taking place are aimed at improving or maintaining environmental quality and natural capital, and can incent the use of green infrastructure or green technologies.

Well-designed markets for restoring and enhancing ecosystem services have been shown to cause positive changes in land-use management by providing options for land managers and policy decision-makers to make trade-off decisions about development and environmental management.

They are a powerful way for farmers, foresters and other industry to generate revenue, achieve social license and public trust, and mitigate environmental risk, and can help government decision-makers target programs towards locations that preserve or enhance priority ecosystem services to provide the maximum benefit to Albertans.

Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity Initiative

The Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity Initiative is a collection of innovative projects and investments designed to build the capacity to implement ecosystem service and biodiversity markets in Alberta.

The initiative is guided by the Ecosystem Services Roadmap, a document which was developed based on the research and knowledge generated through the Institute for Agriculture, Forestry and the Environment. It provides strategic direction for developing knowledge and capacity in ecosystem services and biodiversity markets. The Roadmap identified the following five key building blocks that are required for building ES and biodiversity markets:

  1. Assessments,
  2. Data and information management,
  3. Market infrastructure,
  4. Enabling policy, and
  5. Stakeholder engagement and outreach.

The projects in the initiative are building knowledge and capacity in each of these key areas.

Outcomes and ongoing projects

Over the last six years Alberta Innovates has invested $11.5 million into the Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity Initiative, which in turn was able to leverage these dollars into $33.7 million for 23 projects, which include the following:

  • development and application of six new ecosystem service models,
  • a data and information management system,
  • 194 presentations and research posters,
  • training and development of 153 highly qualified personnel,
  • production of 88 publications and articles,
  • creation of 53 communications tools,
  • facilitation of four workshops,
  • the launch of an educational digital game, newsletters, blogs, and other communication tools, and
  • the Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity Network.

The 23 projects within the Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity Initiative are aligned with the building blocks outline in the Ecosystem Services Roadmap. Significant investments have been made to develop the building blocks, including 10 key initiatives that are building capacity in these areas.

An additional 13 projects have been funded to test, apply and advance the tools, systems and processes developed.

The emphasis of the initiative is currently on community-based pilots and demonstrations to test and validate concepts, and to further engage stakeholders; and on connecting to national partnerships and international work; as well as on formalizing the Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity Network, and establishing a governance system for the market.

The Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity Network

A key outcome of the ES and Biodiversity Initiative is the development of the Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity Network (ESBN). Established in 2015, The ESBN is a multidisciplinary group of experts that is building the knowledge and capacity required to implement an ecosystem services and biodiversity approach in Alberta.

The Network is guided by a team of experts led by Alberta Innovates and our subsidiary InnoTech Alberta. It includes the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute, Silvacom, Land Stewardship Centre, the Alberta Land Institute and the Government of Alberta. Over 150 stakeholders are participating in network activities and are included in distribution of a newsletter, webinar notices, and other important information updates.

The ESBN engages a broad range of stakeholders from many sectors and disciplines, to collaborate in research and management around ecosystem services.

The ESBN builds on the foundational work developed through the Ecosystem Services Roadmap, and addresses the identified knowledge and capacity gaps through pilot studies, discussion papers and other decision support tools.

To learn more, visit the Ecosystems Services and Biodiversity Network.

Additional resources

Bio-Resource Information Management System (BRIMS): a system that collates data and information on the biomass, carbon, water and wetland resources of Alberta, which will help to inform integrated management decisions throughout the province.

Ecosystem Services Roadmap Proof of Concept: additional details for application of the building blocks required to successfully implement ecosystem services and biodiversity markets in Alberta.

Ecosystem and Biodiversity Initiative Results Summary 2010-2016: this summary presents the Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity Initiative’s achievements from 2010-2016. It highlights the development of expertise, systems and tools, and communications and knowledge products.

Creating Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity Markets in Alberta: this booklet showcases the work that has been completed through the Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity Network to date.

Measuring Ecosystem Services: this short video describes what ecosystem services are, why they are important to society and how building big data sets can advance Alberta’s green economy.

Ecoearner: an ecosystem services game that promotes the concept of earning points for demonstrating good environmental management.