Accounting for the Ecosystem

How do we easily, locally account for and track our ecosystem services? The loss of those for other “benefits” is often a bad trade-off in the medoium to long run, and mostly invisible.

Here’s something I came across for Gross Ecosystem Product accounting. Looking for more suggestions and answers, esp in action.

2.3.A.7_GEP_Introduction_and_Its_Application_to_Marine_Ecosystem_IUCN_GOAP_12-15Nov2019.pdf (1.2 MB)

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Let’s talk… :grinning:

Can you share examples where this is done with/by the community at the level of the Panchayat or similar?

We are piloting the basics (Natural Assets inventory, quality, ecosystem services, valuations)… this is not the language the panchayats / local stakeholders use. Will DM you to schedule a call.

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Without it being useful at the level of local decision making and planning, we think it’ll have no long term impact on better trade-offs and decision making around those. It needs to be translated to be useful there.

Yes. That’s why we focus on Local Communities.

Great insight, Sameer. To unlock local economies and bring in circularity, we must track natural capital at a village level and empower panchayats with this information to make better decisions. Mitesh and I have been thinking along similar lines.

Such an approach can also enable systems to shift at a landscape level by nurturing service providers and businesses that offer nature-enhancing services such as bio input resource centres, storage and processing of natural farming produce etc.

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Also, natural capital accounting at a local level will require a local workforce trained and skilled in environmental accounting. This will create conditions for more appreciation for natural assets and a sense of ownership.

Most importantly, regular natural capital accounting can potentially create millions of local green jobs that our economy needs. The CSR pool is currently spending much funding on skills development. They will be interested in contributing to natural accounting skills, thus ushering in convergence and bringing in a new untapped funding source.

All this neatly ties in with the Social Impact Exchange where I believe, Nithin plays an advisory role.

Its easier for provisional services e.g. fodder, fuelwood, water, ntfp, wood for house upkeep etc. There are market equivalent of such costs that are easier to translate and explain to local communities for decision making. Temperature amelioration is also one way we translate value of green cover, open spaces and water bodies to communities where we work as a factor of increase electricity bill to bring the room temperatures down. For cultural services, e.g. in one of the site on wetland restoration, local people who used the wetland for Chhat Puja, were okay to shift the place of cultural worship to other areas (near the well or a fish ponds) should the wetland in current context disappear. Communities are also very resilient in terms of balancing these tradeoffs. Very ofter the decisions are made by collective sentiments than the facts or data.

Another measure we have been using in convincing communities on conservation or protection is cost of repair or restoration should the landscape is damaged and no longer able to provide the services. It opens up interesting dialogue. They also feel overwhelmed with such information. At one instance, local people said, “sir, aapne toh bahut badi jimmedari Hume dedi, ab kaise kaam karenge”

A lot of it depends on local contexts , socio-cultural and political drivers and who is proposing the change.


This is very likely a step in the right direction, and not just for farmers, but the whole planet :slight_smile: Hopefully the next step after the overwhelm will be to regroup and take charge and responsibility of our places/planet.

Yeah, as long as he doesn’t run away next time he sees me :grinning:

It was a good exercise to do the math to calculate GEP.

I tried math to find out the Net Gross Ecosystem Production (GEP) for my village (Dasaut) with the following parameters, -

Village Dasaut
Total village area acres 48.7
Population 5000
Families 1200
60% households owns lands 720
Average Land holding size in acre 2.67
Total Farming land acre 1922.4
% of village ares as forest 45%
Forest area acre 21.915
Number of Ponds 5
Average Ponds size in acre 1
Depth of Ponds feet 6
Number of Dairy animals 100
Natural Lactation Cycle 305

and I was surprised because the invisible part of the Gross Ecosystems Production was almost 20% of the visible (Market Value that we all human care)

The Gross Ecosystem Production (GEP) Visible = INR 26,37,33,900
The Gross Ecosystem Production (GEP) invisible = INR 2,14,77,369 (There are many components that I have not considered)

Math Sheet: Gross Ecosystem Production (GEP) - Google Sheets
Detailed explanation: Gross Ecosystem Product (GEP) - this is not same as GDP - Google Docs

May be the next weekend, I shall have some suggestions around potential actions. :slight_smile:


I am procrastinating of this topic from the Night and the only way I can stop procrastinating if I write it down. GOD

Even though the invisible Gross Ecosystem Production (GEP) is only up to 20% of the visible GEP, the fact the impact of invisible is uncountable for our world. We all know everything is connected to ecology pov which means a small change in the invisible ecosystem creates a massive butterfly effect.

The way a few degrees of increase in CO2 can change the Earth’s atmosphere, small changes in the ecosystem can disturb the rest.

Few examples:

When an economy deforests 1 acre and displays that as net GDP with value X, the economy is actually responsible for future additional

INR 37,500 (CO2 absorption)
INR 168000 (Natural release of O2)
INR 530 (SO2 absorption)
INR 4950 (NOx absorption)
INR 414 (Nitrogen absorption)
INR 105000 (Phosphorus absorption)
INR 3500 (Soil retention)
INR 30000 (Water retention)

I have missed many in this list.

Now, since after 1 acre of deforestation, non of these prevention takes place instantly, it creates a massive problem.

Few examples:

Non-absorption of SO2 leads acid rains:
SO2 (g) + H2O (l) + 1/2O2 (g) → H2SO4 (aq)

Non-absorption of NOX leads acid rains:

NO (g) + 1/2O2 (g) → NO2 (g)
NO2 (g) + H2O (l) → HNO2 (aq) + HNO3 (aq)
HNO2 (aq) + 1/2O2 (g) → HNO3 (aq)

Acid rain affects humans and other living species directly. It also changes the composition of agricultural lands and other invisible -ve impacts. And this creates a vicious cycle. GOD! :frowning:

This means the invisible GEP might be way higher than my calculation. Now I feel demotivated

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Looking forward to this Suman.

I would like to apologize to you all for being pessimistic, I don’t remember being that in my life. The massive progress that we are seeing is not made by pessimistic humans. I would like to be eternal Optimistic. And being on this platform and being pessimistic should not be allowed (lol).

My last math was a rough one. And hence if we start with a complete understanding with some accuracy that will be good. And to do that, these are the potential steps that I can think of right now (this is just a rough one) (pray):

  • Automate the measurement of GEP with an accuracy of ~90%. (This shouldn’t be a problem even the formula inserted in Google Sheets shall work)
  • Build an understanding not only on the bottom-up (village or Panchayat) but also on the top-down.
  • Create a graph for the rate of decay and its 2nd and 3rd-degree effects (invisible)
  • In this way, we will know the stakeholders who are creating the highest Ecosystem decay and only paying for visible and ignoring invisible
  • Do reverse engineering at what speed, space, methods, types etc of responsibilities that can just create a breakeven or even small net +ve and forced those stakeholders to be responsible for their net -ve (or any other method that can offset the net -ve)
  • Implement the reverse engineering plan/understanding/data in the real world
  • Measure, update, and create a loop - that can be implemented for any size

Would love to be get corrected on this :slight_smile:

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