The concept of ecosystem services and its value to society has been touched upon a number of times in my website.

The principles behind this approach were established by the study on the SADC ecosystem services component of the Millennium development goals by Scholes and Biggs. De Groot and others took it onto the global scale in their global study on the value of ESS and its financial implications.

Click here for the pdf: Benefits of Forest Ecosystems in Zambia and the role of REDD+ in a green economy transformation

I also illustrated the mapping of Ecosystem services (ESS) on an SADC wide, South Africa and world heritage sites such as the Vhembe biosphere reserve.

Scientists may have found the smoking gun that ties massive volcanic eruptions in Siberia to the huge Permian extinction, known as the Great Dying. Researchers have discovered that chemicals pumped out of the volcanoes created acid rain that led to the death of some 70 percent of life on land and 90 percent of sea life, according to the study published in Geology. This study also mentions the link between volcanic activity and other great extinction events.

Earth's Biggest Extinction Due to Climate, Volcanoes: Researchers

The recognition of mid ocean ridges and the geologic forces behind ocean floor expansion and continental drift was one of the last behind the acceptance of the continental drift. This article discusses the idea that there is even a link between the volcanic activities under the sea and ice ages:

Seafloor Eruptions Triggered by Tides, Ice Ages

Should ecosystems and its services be valued? This question is foremost in the minds of conservationists today with the current debate on rhino horn and ivory and the trading thereof. This Guardian article comes to the conclusion that we have no choice but to so. The emotional approach has failed over the last 25 years and we have to follow a new approach if we are going to win this war.

This is however but a small part of the global discussion, where the identification of the important of ecosystem services has been increasing and the watershed study by De Groot and others on the value of global ecosystem services makes this very clear. Ecosystems and the services they provide have a capital component. It also indicates that payment for these services has to be included in government policies if rural communities are to derive benefit. Communities should be rewarded for the management they can provide.

The original work on the millennium development goals by Scholes and Biggs are still very valid and need to be implemented by the National Planning Commission if we are going to save our natural resources for future generations.

I have included the work by De Groot and others as this globally important work attaches economic value to ecosystems and its services and illustrates the vast economic benefit of nature.

The three references provide important platforms for the critical conservation debate of the role of conservation areas in the land use patterns of our country and how benefits are to be calculated. One slide by De Groot illustrates the holistic approach to nature and should be seen as the primary motivation behind the establishment of conservation areas.


Image Credit: Ecosystem Services by De Groot

Read the first chapter here

There are no polar bears in Africa, however the principles behind their possible demise is relevant to the management of African wildlife. The concept of translocation to another continent is relevant to the idea of moving rhinos to China. The one comment one can make is that it gives no credibility to polar bears and their adaptation skills. They have been around a long time and through previous warming tends so they might survive this one too.

Click here for the full arcticle. Can Polar Bears Be Saved?

This site gives a good overview of NASA and the use of satellites to detect environmental changes and impact on a continental scale. The use of EVI sensitive sensors gives the opportunity to scope the effects of land use types and gives a good overview of the technology used.

Click here for the full article: California Landscape is Mix of Green and Brown

"715 million years ago the entire planet was encased in snow and ice. This frozen wasteland may have been the birthplace of complex animals." This quotation from the linked article gives rise to the question; is global cooling not more influential than global warming? Did ice ages not have more of an impact than warm ages and is the influence of volcanic activity and impacts from meteorites not more important than humans influence?

Earth Was A Frozen Snowball When Animals First Evolved

As mentioned before, change is inevitable. We have seen rising and lowering of sea levels over time. Globally there has been a 250m high terrace as well as a terrace and subterranean canyons resulting from lower sea levels of the past. This paper from NASA illustrates the cost of raising sea levels and it also illustrates the cost of our inability to adapt and plan for environmental change. We are really the most un-adaptable of all organisms.

Full Article: Climate Change Economics

Predation is generally not liked by humans and as mentioned in this article, ignored as a factor of influence in the patterns on life of the earth. Remember the gloriously peaceful movie “the Lion King”.  However as described very well in this article, predation is one of the most creative activities ever:

How the "art of killing" changed the world

Nothing ever stays the same and environmental changes are always logical. The growth in biodiversity comes as a reaction to environmental change and stress. When we look at history in a geological time frame, it seems slow but changes are also very evident in the landscapes all around, even those as large as the Sahara desert. Change based on geological events is inevitable and large scale in its impact and not often recognised in the climate change debate. Click below for an interesting article 

Arabia was once a lush paradise of grass and woodlands

As the primary role of conservation authorities is the protection and management of biodiversity, it should also be involved in the identification and transfer of services, benefits and value distribution.

This can only done if parks and conservation areas are viewed as a form of land use, that needs to be integrated into regional land use patterns.

Do we really think we can do anything about the global impact of our activities? It is already out of control and I think we deserve what we are about to receive?

Click below for the full article on The Guardian:

Over Population, Oover Consumption - In Pictures

This was personally one of the most interesting projects I have ever worked on. The planning for the Makhado Mine for Coal of Africa required a review of the Vhembe Biosphere reserve as well as the Nzhelele catchment basin and their ecosystem services. This review of all the mapped information was placed on a map composition in a sequence that would follow a thin red line of logic in one single map poster. It will require some detailed study by zooming in on each of the maps on the poster but will reveal the vast amount of information these maps contain. (see the download link at the end of this article for the full size version)

This could be the start of an approach to the demand side of the ivory equation that might also work for the rhino horn model. The principles behind the trading or protection of animal products such as ivory, rhino horn or big cat bones argument will be given some support by the success or otherwise of such a statement and government intervention.


During the last number of years we have been involved with small studies and mapping exercises of a number of little know African Parks. These studies were completed for Leadership for Conservation in Africa (LCA) during investigations into support for a number of countries in Africa. Each of these studies places the park in its natural and man made environment. It illustrates the influence of the regional surroundings on conservation areas. I will, during the next few weeks, place a number of these studies on my blog. 

Dams were often developed without the overall planning and environmental management in countries such as the USA and Canada, where hydropower are seen as essential and urgent.

This video therefore makes interesting viewing: Elwha River Unplugged: Whitewater Remade as Salmon Return

Here is another very interesting video of the breaking of the Condit Dam: Spectacular Time Lapse Dam "Removal" Video

In most of the east coast of the USA in states such as California, Washington and British Columbia in Canada numerous dams and hydropower plants have been there for years, often with catastrophic effects on the migration of salmon and the life of the first nation Indian people.

Drone technology, combined with GIS, is an extremely practical and useful approach to combating poaching, developed using innovation in all its forms. Tracking the roads and proximity of rhinos is what GIS and drones could do so well. Why do all the NGOs, who are raising funds under the emotional cloud created by the enormous publicity generated by rhinos, not band together and support such a project?  This has enormous potential and is so innovative. Just what is needed in this period of reduced hope.

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