Valuing rainforests as Global Eco-Utilities: a novel mechanism to pay communities for ecosystem services provided by the Amazon - Lead project

Dr P Meir
University of Edinburgh, Sch of Geosciences
Start Date
1 June, 2009
End Date
31 December, 2010

This project is the lead of linked project NE/G008485/1 - PI Dr P Meir

The Amazon basin is the largest fresh water and tropical forest ecosystem in the world, representing over half of all the remaining rainforest and housing one tenth of all the known species. It provides important ecosystem services (ES), both locally and globally.

The indigenous and forest dwelling populations are directly dependent on the abundant services provided by the ecosystem, while the rest of the world depends on them too, primarily because the Amazon holds an extraordinarily high biodiversity and also because the forest influences the climate system by cooling the air and recycling and transporting the rainfall over a very large area.

However, the Amazon is a region of tension because large-scale commercial interests (including the production of food, biofuel and timber) threaten its continued functioning. Indigenous people and subsistence farmers with lifestyles adapted to abundant natural resource availability face diminishing access to resources and degradation of ES provision. The large commercial interests driving deforestation also depend on forest services for their continued profits.

There is no system to compensate the subsistence farmers for the loss of services and livelihoods, although potentially they are the stewards of the forest. This state of affairs exacerbates the high levels of economic inequality that characterize Brazil. The proposed project Valuing Forests as Eco-utilities therefore intends to establish a multidisciplinary international team, which can effectively articulate a coherent model for a large-scale Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) system.

This knowledge capacity will be embedded at the grass roots level in order that forest communities can claim their rights with respect to the ES that their natural resources provide, as well as reinforcing community land tenure claims in line with State and Federal laws.

Whilst the urban and peri-urban poor might not be affected directly by deforestation, a large-scale reduction in ES provision would be likely to impact them through rising energy prices, since more than 70% of electricity in Brazil comes from hydo-electric power, and through other value chain effects. This project will assist in establishing the groundwork necessary for a functional large scale PES system with the potential to contribute to pro-poor policy development, and act as a model for government driven wealth redistribution in the region.

This project builds on the belief of Brazilian scientists, which the Global Canopy Programme has helped to catalyse over the last three years, that the water cycle of the Amazon represents a major opportunity for future PES systems. In order to design an effective project we have consulted widely, assembling an international team that consists of scientists, economists and experts in community development. The funding will be mostly used to finance two major workshops, which we believe will establish the group as an influential world-leading authority, and pave the way for larger projects over the next five years.

We focus on the Amazonian region for this project, where the science base is especially strong as a result of a decade of intensive research by Brazilian scientists aided by the international research community, and where there is a high level of scientific expertise; however, the arguments outlined above are quite general and can be applied to the rest of the rain forest biome creating significant potential for subsequent south-south transfer.

Authors Title Year Citations
Muradian, R. Payments for ecosystem services and the fatal attraction of win-win solutions 2013 8
Farley, J. How Valuing Nature Can Transform Agriculture. 2012
Trivedi, M. THINK PINC - PENSE PINC (EN, PT): Securing Brazil’s food, water and energy with proactive investment in natural capital 2012
Rival, L. Sustainable Development through Policy Integration in Latin America: A comparative approach 2012
Ometto, J.Pierre Amazon deforestation in Brazil: effects, drivers and challenges 2011 5
Meir, P. Climatic Change and Seasonally Dry Tropical Forests 2011
Chou, S.Chan Downscaling of South America present climate driven by 4-member HadCM3 runs 2011 10
Marengo, J.A. Development of regional future climate change scenarios in South America using the Eta CPTEC/HadCM3 climate change projections: climatology and regional analyses for the Amazon, São Francisco and the Paraná River basins 2011 12
Rival, L. Ecuador's Yasuní-ITT Initiative: The old and new values of petroleum 2010 13
Meir, P. Amazonian rain forests and drought: response and vulnerability 2010 20
Galbraith, D. Multiple mechanisms of Amazonian forest biomass losses in three dynamic global vegetation models under climate change 2010 43
Rival, L. The resilience of indigenous intelligence 2009
Soares, W.Rodrigues Assessments of moisture fluxes east of the Andes in South America in a global warming scenario 2009 14
Marengo, J.A. Future change of temperature and precipitation extremes in South America as derived from the PRECIS regional climate modeling system 2009 69
Trivedi, M.R. REDD and PINC: A new policy framework to fund tropical forests as global 'eco-utilities' 2009 3
Name Role Organisation Country
Professor Patrick Meir Lead Principal Investigator University of Edinburgh United Kingdom
Professor Patrick Meir Principal Investigator University of Edinburgh United Kingdom
Mr Andrew Mitchell Co Investigator Global Canopy Foundation United Kingdom