Saturday, 12 July 2014

EU - China TEEB workshop - mainstreaming the values of nature into decision making

Over the past few days I attended the  EU - China TEEB scoping workshop in Beijing.

TEEB - The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity - has made significant progress in mainstreaming the values of nature into decision-making in Europe and globally, and there is a desire on the part of key stakeholders (European Union, Ministry of Environmental Protection of China, CRAES, BfN, UNEP) to promote the process in China through exchange of experiences and capacity development between the EU and China.  I was invited to the Beijing workshop as an EU expert in valuing biodiversity and ecosystem services. The two days of discussion proved very fruitful, resulting in progress towards a pathway in which to implement a TEEB China study. One key issue identified in the discussion was the option of an urban TEEB study - the population of Beijing has increased fro 2m to 10m over the past decade and this has had significant implications for people's health and welfare. The prospect of a TEEB China study is very exciting given that it could potentially affect 1/5th of the world population. 

Friday, 18 January 2013

Paper now online: Evaluation of cost-effectiveness of organic farming support as an agri-environmental measure at Swiss agricultural sector level

New paper published in Land Use Policy

Evaluation of cost-effectiveness of organic farming support as an agri-environmental measure at Swiss agricultural sector level

New paper, based on Christian Schader's PhD is now available on Land Use Policy

Schader, Lampkin, Christie, Nemecek, Gaillard and Stolze (2013), Evaluation of cost-effectiveness of organic farming support as an agri-environmental measure at Swiss agricultural sector level. Land Use Policy 31, 196-208.


The economic efficiency of financial support of organic farming has been questioned by economists and policy makers. However, little empirical research has been done in order to evaluate the economic performance of these payments. Thus, the aim of this paper is to calculate the cost-effectiveness of organic farming support in achieving environmental policy targets compared to other agri-environmental measures.
The cost-effectiveness of agri-environmental measures can be understood as a function of policy uptake, environmental effects, and public expenditure. Taking the Swiss agricultural sector as an empirical case study, cost-effectiveness of organic farming support and other single agri-environmental measures was calculated. For this purpose, the sector-representative PMP model FARMIS was extended by three modules encompassing: (a) life cycle assessments for fossil energy use, biodiversity and eutrophication according to the SALCA methodology, (b) public expenditure, including policy-related transaction costs, and (c) uptake of agri-environmental measures.
The calculations revealed a slightly higher policy cost with organic farming support of 14 CHF/ha for a 1% average improvement in the environmental indicators, compared to a combination of three single agri-environmental measures (11 CHF/ha), including both extensification of arable land and meadows. In view of an average public expenditure on agriculture of 2.5 kCHF/ha in Switzerland, these differences can be considered as marginal. Sensitivity analyses confirm that the cost-effectiveness of organic farming support is very similar to combined agri-environmental measures. Furthermore, the model reveals that the cost-effectiveness of specific agri-environmental measures is higher when implemented on organic farms rather than on non-organic farms.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

South Pole training trip to Norway

Pole of Possibility: Arm-power to the South Pole

Training trip to Norway - Jan 2013

Karen on her snow bike

I'm just back from a 2 week training 'mini-expedition' to Norway in preparation for my forth-coming 'Pole of Possibility' expedition to the South Pole. The Norway trip was a great success, and provided us with the opportunity to test our kit (thanks to Berghaus who sponsored us) and our skills. 

Karen is paralysed from the chest down and will be the first paraplegic to 'ski' to the Pole. Her snow bike (above) looks fantastic, but unfortunately didn't perform very well in soft snow and Karen had to revert back to her 'sit ski' for much of the trip (which she has used previously to 'sit ski' across Greenland).  

For more info on the expedition goto:

Enjoy the photos...


Karen on her sit ski
The PoP Team: Simon Darke, Karen Darke, Mike Christie and Andy Kirkpatrick 
Unfortunately, when the bike didn't work, someone had to tow it!

Another peaceful night in the tent
Tucked up in our cosy tent. We also managed to 'fix' Simon's snoring!

A bit of ice climbing as a treat to finish off the trip
If you are into ice climbing, I can highly recommend Rjukan in Norway.
Also, you should stay at the Climbing Inn.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Paper: Valuation of ecosystem services in developing countries.

The following paper is now published in Ecological Economics...

Christie M, Fazey I, Cooper R, Hyde H and Kenter JO. (2012) An Evaluation of Monetary and Non-monetary Techniques for Assessing the Importance of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services to People in countries with developing economies. Ecological Economics, 83, 69-80.

It is based on a Defra funded research project.

Paper abstract.

Biodiversity supports a range of ecosystems services that are of fundamental importance to people in poor countries. Economic valuation of biodiversity is important for the development of policies that protect biodiversity and alleviate poverty. This paper provides an evaluation of monetary and non-monetary techniques for assessing the value of biodiversity to people in least developed countries (LDCs). Specifically, research questions include:
  1. To what extent have monetary and non-monetary techniques been used to assess the value of biodiversity and ecosystem services in LDCs?
  2. What are the key methodological, practical, epistemological and policy challenges to assessing the value of biodiversity and ecosystem services in LDCs?
  3. How can valuation methods be improved to allow more accurate valuation in LDCs?
Our results show that:
  • There is currently a paucity of biodiversity valuation studies in LDCs.
  • Conventional approaches to valuation are often inappropriate for use in LDCs.
  • Incorporating ideas from participatory, deliberative and action research methods into valuation techniques can make them more suitable for use in LDCs.
  • There is a need to build capacity within the academic and policy-making communities in LDCs, to ensure that the benefits of biodiversity are properly accounted for in policy decisions.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Biodiversity vs Carbon?

I'm currently in Panama developing a research proposal that will explore how a 'Payment for Ecosystem Services' (PES) scheme might best be established to manage the land within the Canal's catchment (which is largely rainforest) to deliver a range of 'ecosystem services' (which, in this instance, will be predominantly driven by the management of water flows to feed into the canal). Elsewhere, many similar PES schemes have  been developed under the auspice of the REDD (Reductions in Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) initiative, in which the driving force for protecting the rainforest has been protecting it as a store of carbon.

Undoubtedly, protecting carbon stores and water flows is extremely important. However, today, whilst overlooking the rainforest canopy from a 40m high observation tower, I started to ponder as to how much I really cared about the fact that I was viewing this immense carbon store. Clearly, I'm not arguing that it's not important to maintain carbon stores, but from my perspective above the canopy protecting rainforests for their carbon (or water management in the case of Panama Canal catchment) really misses the point about rainforests. Rainforests are magical places in which the biodiversity fills you with amazement and awe. Everybody knows about the 'charismatic mega-fauna' such as the Howler monkey I saw today swinging through the canopy with a baby on its back. But to me, it's often the little things that inspire me: the brown tree frogs that are indistinguishable from fallen leaves; the stick insects that you only see after staring at a 'twig' for a few minutes; the army of leaf cutter ants carrying leaves twice their weight; the Kingfisher catching a fish; the lizard that runs on water; the humming birds that dart in and out of flowers; the electric blue flashes of butterflies etc etc. And it's not just what you see that make rainforests special; its a full sensual overload. Its the moist dankness of rotten vegetation mixed with the fragrance of scarlet flowers. Its the deafening morning chorus of Howler monkeys, birds, insects and frogs. Its the mix of large leaves as soft as velvet and trees armoured with needle-like spikes. Its swimming in a cool pool fed by a delightful waterfall or showering in warm rain during a downpour. 

I could go on, but I think you get my point. Rainforests are important for their biodiversity and importantly its the diversity of that biodiversity that leaves you in awe. Every time you venture into a forest you see something else new and amazing. In an era where climate change is a key policy driver, it can be very easy to  get detracted by a single issue - carbon storage and sequestration - while the really important issue (in my view anyway) is to reduce the loss of biodiversity. And I suppose, one of my key challenges in this Panama project (if we get it funded) will be to explore ways in which we can truly reflect and capture the awe-inspiring benefits of rainforest biodiversity and feed this into policy. Also, and importantly, how can we capture 'non-use' values when the majority of the world's population have never visited a rainforest.

Fortunately, it's not a choice of one or the other and there can be win-win solutions where protecting the forest for carbon or water flows will also protect its biodiversity. We just need to make sure that policies and on-the-ground conservation remembers this. 

Unfortunately, I've finished my fun in the forest and now its time to get our heads together in an air conditioned hotel room and write the proposal so that we can ensure that its carbon AND biodiversity and not carbon VS biodiversity !

Monday, 10 September 2012


 Last week I went to Brands Hatch to watch a close friend, Karen Darke (, compete in the paralympics hand-cycling competition. Karen broke her back 20 years ago in a climbing accident while a student in Aberdeen with me. Since then, she has done many amazing things - hand-cycled across the Himalayas, skied across Greenland, climbed El Cap etc etc. Her latest adventure was the Paralympics. Her first race was the time trial, in which she won silver! Great effort

Nice medal - thanks for letting me borrow it!

However, perhaps a more inspiring event was the road road race where after a fierce battle with a friend and training partner (Rachel Morris), the two girls were neck and neck ready to grab the Bronze. However, rather than fight it out to the end, the girls decided to lay aside their competitive streak and cross the finish line in a show of friendship and respect for the efforts that each other had to overcome to get there. In the end, a photo finish awarded Rachel with the medal. In the interview afterwards, Karen stated that 'I got a medal the other day so we both have something to celebrate. We've worked so hard together over the last few years we couldn't bear the thought of pipping each other to the line'. It was a beautify finish and one that very much captures the spirit of the Paralympic games. Well done to you both. 

Karen Darke and Rachel Morris crossing the finish line hand in hand at the Paralympics road race.

Next month, Karen is competing to the World para-triathlon championships in New Zealand (I thinks), and then next year I'm hopefully going on a small trip with her to the South Pole!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Two papers in Ecosystem Services is now published online

Two of my papers that are being published in the first edition of Ecosystem Service journal are now available to view online:

Christie and Rayment (2012) An economic assessment of the ecosystem service benefits derived from the SSSI biodiversity conservation policy in England and Wales. Ecosystem Services (In Press)

de Groot et al (2012). Global estimates of the value of ecosystems and their services in monetary units. Ecosystem Services (In Press)