Here at the Natural Capital Lab, all of our discussions at some point require us to concede to the complex and seemingly chaotic dynamics of ecosystems and biodiversity. Despite our best efforts, we’ll never fully capture every input, indicator or relationship at play. Research on ecosystems and biodiversity is nothing new – but mapping the links, impacts, and dependencies between so many different systems and subsystems is still ongoing.
Enter the TEEB AgriFood initiative. The Economics of Ecosystem Biodiversity (TEEB) is a global initiative housed under the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and is working to evaluate the impacts and dependencies between human (economic and social) systems, agriculture and food systems, and ecosystems and biodiversity.
Earlier this month, the Natural Capital Lab was pleased to host a conversation with two leaders of the TEEB study, Pavan Sukhdev and Alexander Müller. Pavan and Alexander presented findings from TEEB’s 2015 Interim Report. The 124-page report is available for download here.
The project aims to address a common and urgent blind spot affecting both the natural capital and agricultural research communities. According to TEEB, ecosystems and agricultural and food systems are typically evaluated separately from one another, despite their many and significant links (see Figure 1 for the TEEB agrifood concept framework). TEEB argues that healthy ecosystems are required for crop and livestock systems to thrive and produce food for humans. As a result, agricultural practices affect (produce negative and positive externalities) on ecosystem and biodiversity health.
One of the main objectives of the TEEB study is to map the natural, social, economic and political systems that “generate both positive and negative flows within the eco-agri-food complex.” Figure 1 illustrates the major clusters for further investigation. One could easily imagine that each cluster could be a major research effort in its own right! Taking stock of each individual cluster and then mapping its relationships to all the others would be no small feat.
In addition to the interim report, TEEB has produced a number of sector-specific exploratory studies, available for download here.
We were extremely fortunate to have Pavan and Alexander bring this research project to life for us and to chose the Natural Capital Lab as their platform for introducing Canadian experts to the project. Thanks to the Global Foundation for the Future of Food, the McConnell Foundation and the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada for co-hosting the event. We look forward to further developments coming out of TEEB and future collaborations.
Nancy Cruz leads communications for the Natural Capital Lab.
Questions, comments, ideas? Get in touch ncruz [at] naturalstep [.] com