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Ecosystem Services as an Indicator for Strategic Environmental Assessment: Towards an adaptive sustainability appraisal evaluation framework

E. A. Fongwa


The trends in environmental performance from different assessments at different levels show continuous environmental degradation. This means environmental balancing of process and function are lacking in developmental activities, due to a sink in the level of Ecosystem Services (ES). Therefore, ES can be an appropriate indicator to weight developmental policies, programs and plans to ensure the consideration of environmental balancing at the policy level. ES are the benefits people derived from natural ecosystems. This paper argues that coupling ES with a more adaptive sustainability appraisal can provide a baseline indicator framework for Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) that incorporates ecological, socio-economic and culture relationships in evaluating policy plans. This is because anthropogenic activities have a greater influence in environmental degradation and an understanding of their relationship with ES by decision maker and the general public would ensure that environmental balancing of processes and their functions are carried out at the policy level in developmental activities.

A strategic analytical approach is employed to develop a more adaptive framework that incorporates these relationships. This is based on Term of References (ToRs) and allows an integration of SEA evaluation criteria with expert judgments, reports and beliefs. The purpose is to evaluate ES and justify it as an indicator system that is flexible, adaptive to changes (sustainability) in achieving SEA objectives and determines potential areas of conflicts, which can be mitigated at the policy level and ensure that developmental activities are sustainable. The assessment framework and method for evaluating ES as an indicator for SEA are discussed in more details and also show that there exist tools for estimating ES that can support them as indicators.


Environmental performance, sustainability appraisal, indicators, SEA, ecosystem services

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