Measuring Ecosystem Services

We are pleased to announce the release of the “Assessing the Ecosystem Service Benefits of the Algar LEAP” project report!

We would like to thank Alberta Innovates Bio-Solutions for supporting this project through the Ecosystem Services Research and Innovation Roadmap. The Ecosystem Services Roadmap is part of a longer term initiative to advance the science, policy, systems and practice of market-based instruments. The Algar project contributed to the implementation of the Ecosystem Services Roadmap and COSIA’s LEAP program by evaluating how well these types of project perform under strict environmental and economic assessment frameworks.

We would also like to thank the Advisory Committee for their support and guidance throughout the life of the project. The Advisory Committee was made up of a mixture of stakeholders from the private sector (forestry and oil and gas), government and non-government organizations. The Advisory Committee shared information relevant to the study area and the LEAP framework, as well as provided guidance and advice on the approaches used in the ecosystem services assessments and cost-benefit analysis (CBA). Their valuable contribution was a key factor in the success of this project.

The goals and objectives of this innovative project were to advance a framework for using Environmental Cost-Benefit Analysis (ECBA) to:

  1. Determine the overall ‘net benefit’ assessment approach of integrated land management and land reclamation projects like Algar.
  2. Identify a framework for assessing potential conservation offsets that are generated through similar projects.
  3. Assess the change in ecosystem services resulting from the application of LEAP.
  4. Measure the costs and benefits resulting from the restoration activities in the Algar area.
  5. Link the findings of the ecosystem services assessment and the cost-benefit analysis to the use of conservation offsets in Alberta.

Advanced modeling exercises were used to predict changes in ecosystem services resulting from the restoration activities. The benefits assessment involved the use of market and non-market valuation techniques to estimate the benefit of the additional units of ecosystem services. What we found is that there are significant gains to be realized from undertaking LEAP restoration activities, including:

  • Increased carbon storage and growing stock.
  • 20% decrease in phosphorus loading.
  • Increased biodiversity intactness.
  • Increased caribou habitat area intactness.

We also found that there are a number of gains to both government and industry that can be realized through an offset scheme (e.g. identification of areas of strategic importance, cost-effectiveness, flexibility, access to land and capital, social license to operate and more).

The Algar Ecosystem Services project will benefit COSIA member companies, the network of resource management companies that participated in the ecosystem service roadmap process, and the Government of Alberta in designing future conservation offset policies.

Stay tuned for details on the proposed next phase of Algar!