Toni Anderson, BBA, MScF, EP
By Toni Anderson, BBA, MScF, EP on November 06, 2016

The Missing Puzzle Piece: What’s Needed to Encourage Natural Capital Accounting in Alberta?

Private sector uptake of natural capital accounting is on the rise. Competing land uses are putting more pressure on our natural ecosystems, which is causing the private sector to take note and consider how this will effect their bottom line. 

In Alberta, in an effort to protect our natural resources and spur the green economy, the government has introduced enabling policies to facilitate the use of conservation offsets and mitigation banking.

With the enabling policy in place and a marketplace where offsets can be bought and sold forthcoming, companies are starting to question how they can track the change created in ecosystem services and natural capital through restoration efforts and conservation planning.

The amount of different ecosystem service modeling platforms available to use can be overwhelming, even for the most experienced subject matter experts. There are often heated debates regarding the better platform to use, calling into question the legitimacy of results when the scope and scale of platforms don’t line up with project boundaries.

While we don’t disagree that the modeling platforms need to be peer reviewed and the scope and scale of the platforms must align with project boundaries, if there isn’t sufficient high-quality data at the right resolution for whatever modeling platform was chosen, the effect will still be the same – inaccurate results with too many assumptions to be able to confidently use in decision-making.

Alberta isn’t lacking in the amount of high-quality data available. We have a province-wide vegetation inventory, spatially explicit biomass data, detailed water body information, and an inventory of current footprint features on the landscape. Furthermore, the EcoServices Network is working with research partners to develop Alberta-specific ecosystem service models. So, why hasn’t there been significant uptake from private industry to complete ecosystem service assessments and track their impacts and dependencies on the natural environment?

Making High-Quality Data Accessible & Easy to Use

While Alberta isn’t lacking in high-quality data, it's not located in one easily accessible location, and stakeholders need GIS knowledge to view the majority of the data. This makes comparing and contrasting for investment decisions difficult for anyone without access to a GIS team.

Silvacom developed the Bio-Resource Information Management System (BRIMS) to act as a centralized data repository. The BRIMS vision is to give users access to dependable, up-to-date, spatially explicit data about Alberta’s biomass and ecosystem services. Easy access to this data will give individuals or companies the tools needed to make informed, sustainable investment decisions. Having all the data available in one spot will help ensure all decision makers are working with the same, standardized data, which will be essential if a marketplace is created where conservation offsets can be bought and sold.

The BRIMS geospatial web enabled application allows users to easily target and customize search locations, build scenarios, and assess land-use trade-offs.

For more information on ecosystem service analysis and how your company can get involved, or if you would like more information on the state of biomass in the province or are interested in using this data for land use trade-off analyses, please contact us.


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