An ecosystem services framework to support statutory water allocation planning in Australia.

Taylor & Francis
Publication Type:
Journal Article
International Journal of River Basin Management, 2014, 12 (3), pp. 219 - 230
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During the past decade the concept of ecosystem services (ES) - the benefits that nature provides to humans - has increasingly been embraced as a promising avenue towards sustainable resource management. Initially pitched to incentive-based biodiversity conservation, the ES concept is now being applied to a diversity of environmental resources in a multitude of policy, planning and management contexts. In the context of water planning, the ES concept is increasingly rivalling the Integrated Water Resource Management paradigm. Despite the omnipresence of the ES language, significant challenges remain in terms of ES implementation and governance. This paper reports on lessons learnt from the collaborative development of an ES Framework within the context of statutory water allocation planning in Australia. The Framework consists of seven components, three of which match key planning steps in existing Australian statutory water planning guidelines. Central to the Framework is a benefits table for water planning. The benefits table is based on the 'ES cascade' model, a metaphor which makes clear distinctions between ecosystem processes, functions, services, benefits, values and beneficiaries. The benefits table is intended for bidirectional use, confronting demands of water system beneficiaries with the biophysical mechanisms that render the services. The Framework is innovative in three ways. First, it was jointly designed with Australia's national water agency (the National Water Commission), based on statutory guidelines for water planning and management. Second, it addresses a statutory requirement for water planning processes to better consider public benefits from aquatic systems, thus providing a direct incentive for water planners to engage with the Framework. Third, the Framework emphasizes the need for comprehensive, a-priori analysis of ES beneficiaries. Comprehensive evaluation of the ES Framework will be required to document successful applications and shar
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