Dawn over the Bangweulu swamps. The Bangweulu Wetlands ecosystem covers a large area exhibiting great biodiversity which is under environmental stress and in need of conservation.

Working Group:
Making Ecosystems Count

The dual challenge of providing for a growing and increasingly wealthy global population while protecting the environment calls for a dramatic shift in how we manage rural landscapes. Both governments and the private sector are working to account for natural capital, biodiversity and the value of ecosystem services, but often with little guidance from science. Policy makers need better tools to help them make sound development decisions.

Photo: Tim Boucher | More Info
Photo: Jane Boles

Working Group Summary

Natural Resource and Ecosystem Service Metrics for Progress Toward Sustainable Development Goals

The Making Ecosystems Count Working Group is developing natural resource and ecosystem service-based indicators for monitoring country-scale progress towards Sustainable Development Goals. The Working Group will focus on indicators that are grounded in ecosystem sciences, that include novel evaluation measures for natural capital and ecosystem services, and that are formulated to be relevant to policy makers who must make difficult decisions about large-scale development and its impact on present and future livelihoods.

Learn about the Challenge

Photo: Challenge Program on Water and Food

The Challenge:

Measuring and Monitoring the Tradeoffs Between Development and Conservation

In some of the poorest parts of the world, large portions of the economy depend on goods and services provided by natural capital, but ecosystem services in those areas are often severely degraded. Conservation and restoration efforts would dramatically improve people’s lives in these places while also making important contributions to biodiversity conservation.

Global development and conservation agendas are increasingly aligned to seize this opportunity, as reflected in the language of both the Convention on Biological Diversity and the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals. This interdisciplinary perspective however, brings significant challenges regarding how decisions regarding trade-offs and synergies around development opportunities are made, and on how to measure and monitor the impact of development interventions.

Read about this Inquiry

Sailing to Kom Ombo on the Nile River.

The Inquiry

Developing a Set of Indicators for Natural Resource Management at Country Scale

Measuring the outcomes of natural resource management and ecosystem service-based management remains a challenge. Policy makers and donors typically prefer straightforward aggregate indicators that compress complex data into a handful of figures, but natural resource and ecosystem service-based management are not amenable to such an approach.

The Making Ecosystems Count Working Group will help develop a meaningful set of measurable, integrated indicators for the sustainable management of natural resources at the national scale that will be tested in up to three large river basins — the Nile, the Volta and the Niger — to validate their scientific robustness and practical relevance. The Working Group will scale up its efforts for wider applicability though a collaboration with the Consultative Group for International Agriculture Research (CGIAR) and will pay specific attention to the role of natural resource and ecosystems in supporting livelihood improvements, food security and health.

Expected Impacts

  • Informing/influencing the metrics and indicators for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • Provide a set of infrastructure development decision-making tools to national level stakeholders that can be used to channel infrastructure planning and investment decisions toward attaining SDGs.
  • Inform infrastructure investment decisions selected as pilot studies for decision-making tools.
  • Influence CGIAR’s development of natural resource manage indicators to track impacts of research on natural resource and management development outcomes across a broad array of activities.
  • Improve science-policy knowledge exchange by building relationships between CGIAR and public and private sector organizations involved in infrastructure development decisions in Africa.


Meet the Team

Photo: Mark Fox | More Info

The Team

The Making Ecosystems Count Team