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Valuing ecosystem services

By Louise Errington

Director of the Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge research initiative Professor Michael Douglas was among CDU researchers who travelled to Malaysia Director of the Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge research initiative Professor Michael Douglas was among CDU researchers who travelled to Malaysia

A group of Charles Darwin University researchers will apply new knowledge about ecosystem valuation in Northern Australia, which they learnt during a recent trip to Malaysia.

The researchers spent a week at the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) learning a technique that places a monetary value on a range of services, such as water, tourism and carbon, delivered to society by natural systems.

The technique, developed by the Cambridge Conservation Initiative in the United Kingdom, is being taught across the globe to groups interested in advocating for the total value of natural environments to be taken into account by policy-makers.

Director of the Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge research initiative Professor Michael Douglas said the project may have important implications for the rivers of Northern Australia.

“Using data from research done over the past five years and applying this new technique will give researchers the capacity to put a dollar value on many ecosystem services provided by northern rivers,” Professor Douglas said.

“Such valuation should be helpful to policy-makers as governments prepare for a new phase of development.”

The group looked forward to further collaboration with researchers from UMIMAS on valuing the ecologically diverse rainforests of South-East Asia.

“We visited several sites near Kuching where our Malaysian colleagues have been recording the local use of forest resources,” Professor Douglas said.

“The diversity of food and medicinal plants was astonishing, and the market value of such products may well match alternative use of the forests, such as conversion to oil palm.”

Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods researchers Professor Stephen Garnett, Professor Mike Lawes and Beau Austin, along with Dr Kerstin Zander from The Northern Institute, made up the CDU contingent.

The course was the fourth in a series of collaborative exercises between CDU, UNIMAS and the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia that aim to build capacity in all three universities through combining expertise to tackle similar environmental issues.