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Our thoughts about things that interest, inspire, and motivate us.

Environment


Authors: Melinda Felso, David Oswald

The news we get of Mex­ico is often wrought with sto­ries of car­tels, vio­lence, and cor­rup­tion, how­ever, there is a vast array of nat­ural won­ders in this remark­able coun­try that are just start­ing to be rec­og­nized for their true eco­nomic value. These nat­ural resources can be viewed as ‘ecosys­tem ser­vices’ which are basi­cally ser­vices that nature pro­vides our soci­ety. One very impor­tant ser­vice that ecosys­tems pro­vide is buffer­ing the impact of cli­mate dis­rup­tion, which is a grow­ing concern.

In the Spring of 2016, three teams of grad­u­ate stu­dents from Royal Roads Uni­ver­sity, under the direc­tion of DE’s David Oswald, col­lab­o­rated with key com­mu­nity stake­hold­ers and Col­orado State Uni­ver­sity to focus their efforts on esti­mat­ing eco­nomic value of ecosys­tem ser­vices in Todos San­tos, Baja Cal­i­for­nia del Sur, Mex­ico. Ecosys­tem ser­vices are bro­ken into three cat­e­gories: pro­vi­sion­ing ser­vices (food, raw mate­ri­als, water), reg­u­lat­ing ser­vices (local cli­mate and air qual­ity, mod­er­a­tion of extreme events, car­bon seques­tra­tion), habi­tat or sup­port­ing ser­vices (habi­tat for species, main­tain­ing genetic diver­sity), and cul­tural ser­vices (recre­ation, tourism, aes­thetic qual­ity, spir­i­tual sense of place).

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Fig­ure 1: An image of the surf break at sun­set at San Pedrito in Pescadero (near Todos San­tos). A mix of pro­fes­sional and ama­teur surfers ven­ture to this great spot (photo: David N. Oswald)

His­tor­i­cally, ecosys­tem ser­vices have been treated as an inex­haustible free ‘good’ and their true value to soci­ety neglected, result­ing in the mis­treat­ment and overuse of most of our pre­cious nat­ural resources. Assign­ing a mon­e­tary value to ecosys­tem ser­vices can help to raise aware­ness and enables more effi­cient use of resources.

Todos San­tos is an amaz­ing surf spot in Baja Cal­i­for­nia del Sur, 77 kilo­me­tres north of Cabo San Lucas. It is also known for whale and bird watch­ing and hik­ing. Despite the rel­a­tive obscu­rity of this town, pro­posed and ongo­ing devel­op­ment poses a pos­si­ble threat to ecosys­tem ser­vices that the area res­i­dents depend on.

southern-bajaFig­ure 2: Map of south­ern Baja Cal­i­for­nia de Sur (http://mexicotravelnet.com/mexico_maps/east_capes.htm)

The main ecosys­tem ser­vices exam­ined were fresh­wa­ter and agri­cul­ture (pro­vi­sion­ing ser­vices), ground­wa­ter recharge and flow con­trol (reg­u­lat­ing ser­vices) and recreation/tourism and aes­thetic (cul­tural ser­vices). Vir­tu­ally all of these ser­vices are depen­dent on or are influ­enced by ground or sur­face water which is already nat­u­rally scarce in the region. The Todos San­tos aquifer is the main source of domes­tic and agri­cul­tural water. Sur­face fresh water is only found in the Todos San­tos lagoon. Fig­ure 3 depicts the Todos San­tos watershed.

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Fig­ure 3: The per­me­able soils and sed­i­men­tary for­ma­tions (“mate­r­ial per­me­able”) bounded by low per­me­able rock for­ma­tions (“rocas imper­me­ables”) limit ground­wa­ter flow. The springs (“man­an­tiales”) feed into the Arroyo La Reforma that feeds the Todos San­tos lagoon. Sur­face water dis­charges from the Arroyo La Reforma into the ocean and the ground­wa­ter dis­charge into the ocean (“descarga sub­ter­ranean al mar”).

The reports found that the total mon­e­tary value of agri­cul­ture is 22.5 mil­lion peso and water sup­ply is 14.9 mil­lion peso in a year. These val­ues were derived using the TEEB (The Eco­nom­ics of Ecosys­tems and Bio­di­ver­sity) frame­work which is based on a data­base of exist­ing val­u­a­tion stud­ies and presents val­ues for ecosys­tem ser­vices in var­i­ous regions of the world.

The total annual value of ground­wa­ter recharge of the Todos San­tos water­shed was USD $34,827,520 per year, using the replace­ment cost method (what the cost of replac­ing the ground­wa­ter recharge ser­vice would be) and flow con­trol was $165/day ($60,225.00/year) using the hedo­nic val­u­a­tion method (the stated will­ing­ness of tourists to pay for being in prox­im­ity of the only sur­face fresh­wa­ter in the area).

The total annual value of the recreation/tourism and aes­thet­ics was releveled to be approx­i­mately USD $68.06 to 85.53 mil­lion annu­ally using the direct mar­ket pric­ing method of tourism and accounted for activ­i­ties, accom­mo­da­tion, nour­ish­ment that the tourists pay for, with the assump­tion that peo­ple are will­ing to pay the pre­scribed eco­nomic value for these ecosys­tem services.

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Fig­ure 4: An impromptu con­cert by one of the Pescadero locals. An exam­ple of the cre­ativ­ity and cul­ture (read — cul­tural ser­vices) that is omnipresent in Todos San­tos / Pescadero (Photo: David N. Oswald)

The reports also rec­om­mended actions for long-term sus­tain­abil­ity of the area, includ­ing select­ing key indi­ca­tors of ecosys­tem ser­vices health, such as quan­tity, qual­ity and with­drawal rate of sur­face and ground water, area of pre­served nat­ural and cul­tural her­itage and oppor­tu­ni­ties to see wildlife. These indi­ca­tors should pro­vide clear links between a given ecosys­tem ser­vice and its rela­tion­ship to a spe­cific aspect of the ecosys­tem and how this would impact the area res­i­dents. Engag­ing key stake­hold­ers in the process was also recommended.

The ecosys­tem frame­work and TEEB val­u­a­tion method is use­ful for assess­ing risks. Increas­ingly, busi­nesses are need­ing to under­stand what risk expo­sure they have to dis­tur­bances such as droughts, floods, cli­matic vari­abil­ity, and other haz­ards. By hav­ing a han­dle on their reliance on var­i­ous key ecosys­tem ser­vices they have a bet­ter chance at deter­min­ing how they poten­tially will be impacted and can plan accordingly.

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Fig­ure 5: A mari­achi band play­ing at the open­ing of Col­orado State University’s cam­pus in Todos San­tos in 2015 (Photo: David N. Oswald)

These reports were pre­pared by work­ing pro­fes­sion­als who are engaged in grad­u­ate study in Envi­ron­men­tal Man­age­ment at Royal Roads Uni­ver­sity. There was a short time frame for this project and the teams relied on sec­ondary data and a lot of assump­tions, there­fore the results are far from per­fect. Nev­er­the­less they indi­cate the impor­tance of eval­u­at­ing ecosys­tem ser­vices in a man­ner that deci­sion mak­ers can relate to and these reports lay the foun­da­tion for fur­ther, more detailed, work.

Although there are chal­lenges that are faced in Mex­ico, as in other coun­tries, the rich­ness of the cul­ture and nat­ural her­itage is amaz­ing and some­thing that one must see. The evo­lu­tion of under­stand­ing of eco­nomic val­u­a­tion of ecosys­tem ser­vices will help to put coun­tries such as Mex­ico at the fore­front of development.

Down­load Reports here:

Pro­vi­sion­ing Services

Reg­u­lat­ing Services

Cul­tural and Recre­ational Services

Ref­er­ences:

Adams, M., Chaboyer, S., Hatcher, B., & Zell­weger K. (2016). Sus­tain­abil­ity Report­ing and Ecosys­tem Val­u­a­tion Research: Pro­vi­sion­ing Services.

Boles, J., Gled­hill, K., Tibu, S. & Mar­shall, C. (2016). Todos San­tos Ecosys­tem Val­u­a­tion Research: Ground­wa­ter Recharge and Flow Control

Brown, E., Felso, M., Liao, Y. C., Tourangeau, E. (2016). Todos San­tos, Baja Cal­i­for­nia Sur, Mex­ico case study: eco­nomic val­u­a­tion and report­ing of cul­tural pro­vi­sion­ing ecosys­tem services.