In a developing field like ecosystem services, there’s bound to be a lot of competing paradigms out there, some of which may even argue that the entire field isn’t all it’s made out to be.

A four-year long study [PDF] done by the UK-based Forestry Research Program might be seen as one such setback for proponents of ecosystem services. The study’s “main finding” was that the method of planting trees in the upstream areas of watersheds does not have the desired effect of increasing the water yields downstream. I might be misunderstanding this, but I could have guessed that more trees upstream means less water downstream, and without the four year study.

Setting that aside, however, the report cites other hurdles to ecosystem valuation.

Local biophysical relationships are too complex to be translated into direct economic trading relationships and, because of the difficulty in providing absolute proof, could be challenged legally.

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However, John Palmer, manager of the Forestry Research Program, is not convinced that the whole idea is finished. “The key message,” says Palmer, “is there are no blanket recommendations.” The report does come close to a blanket recommendation, though, when it advises that a regional scale may be more appropriate because it will solve some problems of unreliability in individual watersheds.

Via the Ecosystem Marketplace Newsletter.

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