Our agricultural system is moving towards sustainable production that considers the ecosystem and the services that it provides. There is a bond between ecosystem services and human well being that is specially strong in rural areas, where the main livelihoods hinge on agricultural production.
Agriculture has been shaping ecological landscapes for hundreds of years. According to FAO, 38.5% of world’s land surface is being used for agriculture. Decisions taken in agricultural development are linked to the state of the Earth’s ecosystems, however, its hard to assess both concepts as one. Bioversity International, CGIAR and and The Natural Capital Project have been helping to address this challenge by developing a project that maps ecosystem services to human well being (MESH). This tool allows decision makers to easily quantify and map the impacts on ecosystem services production and provision, under different scenarios of landscape management.
This free downloadable software literally “meshes” datasets to forecast the production and provision of ecosystem services trough hypothetical scenarios plotted on a map. Decision makers wishing to implement a policy or project can feed the software with data to simulate a possible scenario of how the action will impact in the production and provision of ecosystem services. The output will be a forecast. Although the use of geographical models in decision making is not state of the art, MESH is innovative because it incorporates the concept of decision making based on ecosystem services.
MESH also aims to link ecosystem services with the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). At the GCARD3 Global Event, Dr. Ehsan Pollo, Program Leader at Bioversity International, emphasised the key role that agriculture has in meeting the SDGs, and explained how MESH could contribute to achieving these goals. For instance, the protection and restoration of the ecological systems to promote life on land is a key goal. By providing information to help decision makers evaluate the impact of policies and projects in ecological systems, MESH can help them to be protected and restored.
As with any travel, the most insignificant distraction could take us off the road, and the consequences will not be favorable. The tools to work towards a sustainable agriculture are starting to spread, but it won´t be more than research results until we start to use them. Let´s start using the maps toward sustainable agricultural landscapes!
Blogpost by Sergio Urioste Daza, #GCARD3 Social Reporter –sergio.urioste.daza[at]gmail.com
Photo credit: Larisha Koshinka
This post is part of the live coverage during the #GCARD3 Global Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, 5-8 April 2016. This post is written by one of our social reporters, and represents the author’s views only.