All species rely on ecosystems to meet their basis needs from food and fresh water, to shelter and health. These so called ecosystem services were categorised by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment as comprising food, genetic resources, fresh water, air quality regulation, climate regulation, water regulation, erosion regulation, water purification and waste treatment, disease regulation, pest regulation, pollination, natural hazard regulation and cultural services. Perhaps the most well known are climate change mitigation, watershed services and biodiversity conservation.
Biodiversity conservation is at the heart of all WCS’s work. Through a mix of advocacy, scientific research, practical conservation and environmental education we aim to ensure the sustained provision of ecosystem services in the landscapes where we work. By protecting the Southern Highlands forests, for example, we are safeguarding water catchment areas, myriad rare and endemic species, cultural heritage, a vast array of medicinal plants and natural resource dependent livelihoods from agriculture to beekeeping for millions of people.
We have also developed more specific Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) projects. For example, the Tarangire Elephant Project has set up innovative and effective ‘Conservation Easements’ in the Simanjiro plains. Communities receive revenue for setting-aside areas of land and funding is provided through photographic tourism. Securing these areas with such protected status ensures they remain intact habitat for elephant, wildebeest, buffalo and other ungulate species during their wet season breeding migration while also contributing to community livelihoods.
Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) is a global PES scheme that arose from international climate change talks. It aims to provide payments to countries that reduce carbon emissions by mitigating activities that reduce forest biomass. The Royal Norwegian Government supported WCS to conduct a REDD Readiness project in Tanzania’s Southern Highlands. A baseline study was designed and carried out to provide methods for estimating deforestation, carbon sequestration, emissions and leakage in southwest Tanzania’s four most important forests (covering 52,680 hectares). This pilot provided substantial carbon data and demonstrated appropriate tools for implementing REDD strategies and monitoring forest degradation. Economic incentives to address the main drivers of local forest degradation were identified that would reach at least 50,000 people. The project also provided an estimate of the levels of emission reductions that could be expected should the target forests be included in a national level REDD initiative. WCS Tanzania has also been active in a cross-sector coalition of civil society organisations assisting the Government of Tanzania’s REDD strategy development.