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Natural Capital Symposium

Short Talks: Birds of a Feather Round Table

March 17, 2020 - 11:00 am to 12:30 pm
Jacobson-Sorensen Hall 142
Innovative science-based methods and policies that estimate and integrate natural capital are increasingly needed to harmonize people and nature. How can planning efforts reflect those values and what are the implications when they do, or when they don’t? From tropical forests, to wetlands, to charismatic marine megafauna, this session presents case studies highlighting opportunities to integrate nature’s benefits into sustainable planning.
Session Lead: Doug Denu, Software Developer at the Natural Capital Project, Stanford University
  • Onil Banerjee, Economist at Inter-American Development Bank
    • Title: The Integrated Economic-Environmental Modeling Platform: An Application to Costa Rica's Decarbonization Plan
    • Abstract: The Integrated Economic-Environmental Modeling (IEEM) Platform integrates natural capital into public policy and decision making. Since its development at the Inter-American Development Bank in 2014, it has been applied to hundreds of policy and investment questions ranging from strategies to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and Green Growth, to sector-specific analysis with applications to investments in agriculture, forestry and tourism.  This paper describes the application of IEEM to Costa Rica’s ambitious Decarbonization Plan, focusing on transportation and agriculture/forestry sector strategies. We demonstrate the value-added of the IEEM Platform as its ability to shed light not only on Gross Domestic Product impacts of public policy and investment but also on long run sustainability and wealth, the winners and losers of policy implementation, and necessary trade-offs and synergies. 


  • Priyanka Sarkar, Doctoral student at Assam University
    • Title: LULC change driven by annual flood event ensures the delivery of provisioning ecosystem services and livelihood diversification in seasonal floodplain wetlands
    • Abstract: Seasonal wetlands may provide diverse ecosystem services because of land use/land cover (LULC) change driven by annual flood events. We validate this idea on a seasonal floodplain wetland in Assam, Northeast India by mapping the LULC for dry & wet seasons, and quantification & estimation of the economic value of provisioning ecosystem services following standard methods. 51% of the wetland remained inundated during wet season, which served as a capture fishery source. While, only 6% of wetland area retained water during the dry season, which was used for culture fishery. Besides, paddy cultivation was also done during the dry season. The huge economic value of provisioning ecosystem service of the wetland in terms of harvesting of paddy & fish, NTFPs, and soil extraction confirms that LULC change due to periodic flooding in seasonal wetlands underpins the delivery of ecosystem services for the sustenance the livelihood of local people. 
  • Katie Surrey, PhD Student Research Assistant at Arizona State University
    • Title: The Value of Behavior: The Biosocial Model of Whale Watching
    • Abstract: Cetacean-based ecotourism accounts for two-billion US dollars in income across 119 countries. This revenue is vital to funding conservation efforts and provides benefits to local communities through education and job opportunities. However, additional benefits of ecotourism depend on the behavior and health of whale populations, and while previous studies demonstrate the drastic impact of human activity on animal behavior, it has not been determined how changes in animal behavior directly impact people’s willingness to pay for wildlife tourism activities. We are studying a population of humpback whales off the Pacific coast of Panama to create a coupled biosocial system focused on animal behavior. We are assessing animal behavior while collecting tissue samples for oxidative stress analysis, to establish novel laboratory biomarkers for behavior. Through surveys of industry stakeholders, we will collect data on the socioeconomic impacts of whale behavior. Our study will provide an understanding of various parameters required to model human-environment interaction in the ecotourism industry, and it is critical to assess the interplay between animal behavior and the value these behaviors provide to people. In the future, the integration of animal behavior research into conservation planning will allow for more effective regulation and compliance of conservation policies.
  • Victoria Hemming, Postdoctoral researcher at The University of British Columbia
    • Title: Best practice in the elicitation of quantitative and probabilistic judgement
    • Abstract: Natural capital assessments can be heavily reliant on data. For example, data on costs, estimates of trends over time, and even probabilities. However, often the data we require is absent or uninformative. In this talk I discuss how structured expert elicitation protocols can be used to derive quantitative and probabilistic judgements from experts when data is difficult to obtain. I will present two validated case studies to demonstrate how protocols (the IDEA protocol and the Classical Model) can be used to derive quantitative estimates, and the extent to which they can improve judgements. 


  • Jakki Mohr, Regents Professor of Marketing at University of Montana
    • Title: Valuations of Business Impacts and Dependencies on Nature
    • Abstract: Historically, business practice has negatively affected the natural environment. Many environmental problems originated from businesses’ view of nature as a source of cheap inputs. Moreover, businesses haven’t accounted for negative environmental impacts from manufacturing, pollution, toxic waste, shipping and transportation (e.g., greenhouse gas emissions). Indeed, the logic of business, focused on consumption of consumer goods, is perhaps inherently at odds with preserving the natural world. Given that “you can’t manage what you don’t measure,” various businesses and organizations are developing metrics and models to quantify a business’s impacts on natural capital. Leading businesses are forging ahead with financial valuations of their impacts on nature.  For example, Kering’s “Environmental Profit and Loss” calculator shows its impact on the environment in financial terms. Similarly, BASF clearly reports its overall value, including economic, social and environmental. Despite the compelling logic of accounting for impacts on nature, few businesses do so. Our research conducted over the past two years through in-depth interviews with businesses, NGOs, consultants, and others highlights the array of motives behind these companies’ efforts, as well as the challenges they have overcome. In addition, our research demonstrates that valuations of natural capital affect decision making in powerful and unexpected ways.  


  • Gabriel Munoz Moreno, Architect, Urban Planner at Director LAIA Lab, Researcher, Harvard Alumni
    • Title: Landboxes - Compact Land Reclamation Systems for a sustainable social growth
    • Abstract: "Landboxes" is a modular, cast in-situ, water-based infrastructure designed as a plug-in system for coastal developments. This infrastructure aims to reduce the social pressure and ecological impacts that occur in and near urban nodes. Landboxes are novel land reclamation techniques that enables land formations to emerge faster, more economically, and more in tune with the environment. Land reclamation typically is associated with the creation of new territory through the process of filling submerged zones, usually in the area of coasts, riverbanks, or wetlands. Current land reclamation techniques use dredging and landfilling, which changes the shape of coastlines, properties of wetlands, and composition of marine environments. About seven trillion dollars will be spent up to 2050 in this field. Landboxes present an urban alternative where construction does not involve dredging nor landfilling. Instead, a much more controlled construction methodology is deployed that performs as a large-scale, water-based 3D concrete printer. Territory is thus generated not by landfilling, but through partial floatation, and water permeation, to grant space for new land to operate within the ebb and flow of natural cycles.