Defenders in the Northwest
Sage-Grouse, Photo: USFWS Pacific Southwest Region

Ecosystem Markets

Defenders of Wildlife supports the creation of multi-credit ecosystem marketplaces to conserve fish and wildlife habitat, improve water quality, and find more effective ways to restore ecosystems.

What Are Ecosystem Services?

An ecosystem service is a function the earth provides for society naturally. For example, trees give us oxygen and shade, forests purify our drinking water, and wetlands filter our waste water.

What is an Ecosystem Service Market?

An ecosystem service market is a system for buying and selling ecosystem services, including clean and abundant water, clean air, fish and wildlife habitat, wetlands, pollination, and soil productivity. An ecosystem market arises when people are willing to pay to establish or enhance a particular natural function. For example, a developer wanting to build a new subdivision might choose to meet air quality requirements by paying a nearby farmer to plant trees to absorb the greenhouse gases over the life of the project.  

Why is an Ecosystem Marketplace Needed?

As a society, we value clean air, water, fish and wildlife and natural landscapes. We have regulations that constrain activities that are harmful to the environment, like discharging toxic chemicals, destroying endangered species habitat and catching fish beyond a legal limit. Although these regulations are effective at stopping or limiting harmful acts, they are not always helpful in establishing positive or restorative actions. An ecosystem marketplace provides incentives that create a win-win situation for both landowners and the environment.

How We’re Helping

  • Defenders works to strengthen legislation to eliminate barriers to the use of payments for ecosystem services as an additional incentive mechanism.
  • Defenders created the Marketplace for Nature portal in the Conservation Registry, an online site to highlight projects where ecosystem services have been quantified or offered for sale. It provides resources and information for people wanting to learn more about these new conservation tools.
  • Defenders developed habitat measurement tools, or metrics, for three priority habitat types in Oregon: oak woodland, floodplain, and sagebrush. The goal was to build a reliable “accounting method” to measure biodiversity and habitat values if they are to be bought and sold and to measure outcomes for landowners receiving incentive payments for conservation actions. 
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