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Assessing the Capacity of Ecosystems to Supply Ecosystem Services Using Remote Sensing and An Ecosystem Accounting Approach

Vargas, Leonardo, Willemen, Louise, Hein, Lars
Environmental management 2019 v.63 no.1 pp. 1-15
Elaeis guineensis, carbon sequestration, cattle, economic development, ecosystem services, ecosystems, freshwater, grazing, issues and policy, monitoring, net primary productivity, pastures, raw fruit, remote sensing, spatial data, statistics, watersheds, Orinoco River
Ecosystems contribute to economic development through the supply of ecosystem services such as food and fresh water. Information on ecosystems and their services is required to support policy making, but this information is not captured in economic statistics. Ecosystem accounting has been developed to integrate ecosystems and ecosystem services into national accounts. Ecosystem accounting includes the compilation of an ecosystem services supply and use account, which reflects actual flows of ecosystem services, and the ecosystem capacity account, which reflects the capacity of ecosystems to sustainably supply ecosystem services. A capacity assessment requires detailed data on ecosystem processes, which are often not available over large scales. In this study, we examined how net primary productivity derived from remote sensing can be used as an indicator to assess changes in the capacity of ecosystems to supply services. We examine the spatial and temporal patterns in this capacity for the Orinoco river basin from 2001 to 2014. Specifically, we analyze the capacity of six types of ecosystems to supply timber, pastures for grazing cattle, oil palm fresh fruit bunches and to sequester carbon. We compared ecosystem capacities with the level of ecosystem service supply to assess a sustainable use of ecosystems. Our study provides insights on how the capacity of ecosystems can be quantified using remote sensing data in the context of ecosystem accounting. Ecosystem capacity indicators indicate ecosystems change and harvesting-regeneration patterns which are important for the design and monitoring of sustainable management regimes for ecosystems.