Forests are more than carbon sinks.
Globally, forests are economically valued through their supply of goods, such as timber. However, forests (and other natural landscapes) also host vast amounts of biodiversity and provide many ecosystem services of significant economic value as well as recreational benefits and cultural meaning to humankind.
People around the globe are starting to value nature for more than just its raw value, and at Single.Earth we believe that nature should be valued for more than just the amount of carbon that can be stored in plants and in the soil. Therefore, we are
adopting an approach to account for other aspects of nature, specifically biodiversity and ecosystem health, that will be included in the next iteration of the digital twin. With the implementation of this new approach Single.Earth aims to quantify and monitor ecosystem integrity facilitating payments for landowners who maintain the ecosystem's health of their land, and help to drive financial incentives to protect the last-remaining high-integrity forests across the globe. Thus, making a strong contribution to tackling the interconnected climate change and biodiversity loss crises.
Figure below: Forest ecosystems provide a wide range of services, including supporting, regulating (e.g., carbon sequestration), and cultural services
We base our method on the ecosystem integrity concept, which has been put forward in the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to support global biodiversity monitoring. Ecosystem integrity (El)
can be measured by characteristics of structure, function, and composition relative to a reference state. The structure of an ecosystem describes the three-dimensional architecture and connectivity between all abiotic and biotic components within that ecosystem (e.g., canopy height and forest connectivity). Processes that involve energy exchanges between different biotic components can be defined as ecosystem functions (e.g., primary productivity, nitrogen cycling, and others). Composition refers to the biotic attributes of the ecosystem, such as species richness, genetic variation, and trophic interactions.
Figure below: The similarities, differences, and dynamics between ecosystem integrity, naturalness, and intactness.
In the upcoming months, we will start assessing the ecosystem integrity of our onboarded lands using an Ecosystem Integrity Index (Ell). This index will measure and monitor the three components of the concept of El (structure, function, and composition) to better understand forest ecosystems, inform decisions, improve management, and contribute to global political agendas like the Agenda 2030 and the Post-2020 GBF. More specifically, Single.Earth will use the following open-access
indicators for characterizing the elements of ecosystem integrity: biodiversity intactness index (BIl) representing the element composition, net primary productivity (NPP) representing the element function, and loss in forest connectivity (LFC) representing the element structure. Our approach to quantifying El provides a simple and scalable solution to measure and monitor the conditions of forest ecosystems from local to global perspectives.
Using this framework, Single.Earth can develop a newer version of our nature-backed MERIT token that has, so far, been based on the CO₂ flux assessment of a specific land plot. With this new methodology, we will be able to provide a robust estimation of
the El to additionally represent the state and health of a land plot facilitating payments to the respective landowner for preserving its valuable forest.
Hansen, M. C., Potapov, P. V., Moore, R., Hancher, M., Turbanova, S. A., Tyukavina, A., Thau, D., Stehman, S. V., Goetz, S. J., Loveland, T. R., Kommareddy, A., Egorov, A., Chini, L., Justice, C. O., & Townshend, J. R. G. (2013). High-Resolution Global Maps of 21st-Century Forest Cover Change. Science, 342(6160), 850-853. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1244693