This article was originally published on CGIAR.


“Some historians believe the maxim “what gets measured gets managed” dates all the way back to the 1500s. So for at least 500 years, humans have realized that tracking and counting help us achieve what we’ve set out to do. And the world has recently set out to reach some heavy achievements – the most ambitious in its history.

By agreeing on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the world now has a range of targets for improving human well-being by 2030. While we reach for these goals, we have a chance to integrate something that provides the foundation of sustainability: the contributions of nature to human well-being.

The 17 SDGs and their 169 targets globally represent a potential new means of evaluating and integrating nature in decision-making. For policy makers to embrace a development approach where the environment (i.e. natural capital) is managed to achieve multiple objectives, there must be a sound understanding of how the services provided by nature can contribute to actual SDG targets. Yet, practical strategies for achieving these aims in unison – particularly how ecosystems can be both protected and managed to support human well-being objectives – are not specified. This presents important and urgent research questions.

While we might not be able to fully answer these questions yet, there is a significant body of research showing that ecosystems can benefit many dimensions of human well-being. Termed “Ecosystem services”, the benefits humans can gain from properly functioning ecosystems range from the provision of food and water to control of diseases to crop pollination.

In a newly published paper we set out to summarize existing knowledge on ecosystem contribution to conservation and development targets in the SDGs. Using a global survey we asked ecosystem service and development experts: where can ecosystem services make important contributions to specific SDG targets…”

Read on at CGIAR.