What are ecosystem services?
Ecosystem services are the benefits that we obtain from nature and natural processes.
The forests and woodlands in the UK provide a broad range of ecosystem services from regulating the flow and purification of water to maintaining soil’s productive capacity as well as capturing carbon and providing recreation services. These woodland ecosystem services are essential to the economy and society, both within the UK and globally, with their value estimated at £5.3 billion in 2017 (ONS, 2020).
What is the Ecosystem Services Procedure?
The Ecosystem Services Procedure builds on FSC forest management certification by allowing forest managers or owners to make specific, credible claims on how their management activities are contributing to maintaining and/or enhancing various ecosystem services in their forests. Impacts can be verified for the following:
- biodiversity conservation,
- carbon storage and sequestration,
- watershed services,
- soil conservation,
- recreation services.
Most forests or woodlands provide multiple ecosystem services, yet while markets currently attach values to timber and other tangible forest products, and to some ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, the delivery of other ecosystem services has largely gone unrecognised and unrewarded. As a forest manager or owner, the Ecosystem Services Procedure can be used to recognise the diverse benefits of your management practices and identify potential payments or investments for maintaining services that are not recognised by traditional markets. It also allows forest managers to seek rewards for the services provided by forests or woodlands before they have reached maturity.
Forest Managers: Achieving FSC Ecosystem Service verification
Only forests or woodlands that are covered by FSC forest management certification are eligible for ecosystem service impact verification using the FSC Ecosystem Service Procedure.
The verification process is undertaken by the same certification body as for forest management certification. It can take place at the same time as forest management audits and can be managed through a group certification scheme. Verified impacts will be included in the forest management certificate and certification report.
Impacts can be verified for one or any combination of the five ecosystem services, dependent on the services of interest for promotion or investment. As FSC forest management standards provide adequate social and environmental safeguards, it is acceptable to verify positive impacts only for the ecosystem services of interest: compliance with the standards ensures you are not degrading the others.
The guidance document outlines the seven-step step process, requirements and methodologies for verifying ecosystem service impacts.
What are ecosystem service claims?
Once impacts are verified by an FSC-accredited certification body, ecosystem service claims can be used by forest managers to promote their positive impacts and attract payments, investments or other rewards from interested parties.
We can support forest managers and owners by providing guidance on the process of verifying impacts and exploring potential market rewards.
How can businesses use ecosystem service claims?
FSC verified ecosystem service claims will help financial sponsors demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and to reducing deforestation and forest degradation.
Claims provide governments, investors, buyers and businesses with the assurance that the impacts they are paying for preserve the sustainable provision of ecosystem services.
They can also be used by retailers and other companies to promote FSC 100% products from forests with verified ecosystem services impacts.
If you are interested in investing or sponsoring the sustainable provision of forest ecosystem services, please get in contact with amy at fsc-uk point org.
If you would like to learn more about successful cases of verified ecosystem services impacts please see this article about a group scheme in Italy or this blog detailing cases in Chile and Argentina.
ONS (2020) Woodland natural capital accounts, UK: 2020.