The Eurosite Economics and Ecosystem Services Working Group has since its creation aimed to increase the number of protected areas implementing ecosystem services planning, as well as increase awareness of the economic and environmental benefits of protecting and enhancing ecosystem services. During the Eurosite Annual Meeting that took place in Finland last month Mr. Jan Veenstra, the Working Group’s chairman, provided some insights in subjects related to alternative funding sources and additional funding.

The question in the matter of alternative funding is if the establishment of a market system for protected nature areas could function as an answer to the economisation of life. After various presentations that were given at the Annual Meeting, interesting discussions arose on topics such as habitat banking. Habitat banking is defined by the Environment Bank (UK) as a market based system for matching demand and supply for ecosystem services including biodiversity, made possible by restoration of (degraded) lands or habitats that is (co)financed by the selling of nature credits.

With regard to such market based systems, the Economics and Ecosystem Services Working Group discusses on questions as to which motives can be put forward for creating demand from the companies and other parties for nature credits and if it at all can be a viable option to sell nature credits that guarantee only the output of creating conditions necessary for the enhancement of biodiversity and / or delivery of (some) ecosystem services without the need to prove the lasting result of enhancement. Furthermore, nature areas are the main treasury keepers of sustainable ecosystem services for our economies. However, at its best, nature management is considered an acceptable social expense. The main questions for debate in that respect are if a market system can be helpful to underline this treasury keeping position of nature areas and if a market system based upon nature credits can be a viable option for (protected) nature areas. Additionally, thoughts on the question of under what conditions habitats in (protected) nature areas are suitable for the purpose of habitat banking should be well reflected and discussed.

Overall, such discussions are important in consideration of the main goal, which remains to co-fund the care and sustainable management of Europe’s protected areas through the earnings of ecosystem services provided by nature.