Valuing nature by developing ecosystem services credits for keystone species
At the end of 2021, Rebalance Earth (RBE) was one of the three organisations funded under the Let’s Make It Possible (LMIP) Challenge Fund. The annual theme for 2021, Valuing Nature, invited organisations to propose solutions to the question of “how can you make protecting nature more attractive as an economic pursuit than destroying it”?
Rebalance Earth’s proposition was to create a blockchain minimum viable product (MVP) that provides a trustworthy, transparent, and traceable marketplace for buyers to purchase ecosystem services credits generated by keystone species in their natural environments (including carbon offsets). The credits aim to:
- Reduce climate change and regenerate biodiversity.
- Assign a monetary value for living keystone species.
- Help support UN SDG 1: No Poverty, by linking investments in local communities to the welfare of keystone species.
Illustration of how the Rebalance Platform delivers funds through tokens to different approved entities that have been connected to the Platform.
As forest elephants travel through the forest, they tear down and eat shrubs and small trees, creating light canopies in otherwise overgrown areas, which then provides direct sunlight and nutrients for smaller plants and trees to grow. They spread seeds vast distances, which has a propagating effect – their dung is high in nutrients for other plants and animals to consume. They use their tusks to dig for water, which in turn provides water for other animals.
The LMIP funding has assisted RBE to develop this blockchain minimum viable product (MVP) which demonstrates the ability to transfer funds from buyers to local communities and wildlife justice initiatives in a trusted manner and place a high monetary value for living biodiversity that far supersedes its value when dead.
RBE have focused their pilot technology specifically on the forest elephant, which is a keystone species in Africa, due to the role they play in landscaping their environment for other animals and plants to prosper. As forest elephants travel through the forest, they tear down and eat shrubs and small trees, creating light canopies in otherwise overgrown areas, which then provides direct sunlight and nutrients for smaller plants and trees to grow. They spread seeds vast distances, which has a propagating effect – their dung is high in nutrients for other plants and animals to consume. They use their tusks to dig for water, which in turn provides water for other animals.
RBE has been able to learn from the strengths and weaknesses of existing carbon offsetting markets to generate a superior ecosystem services market. Most importantly, RBE has been able to adapt its model to redress past consumer concerns around the lack of transparency, traceability and trust in the products and offsets purchased while providing a holistic solution that addresses the interconnected problem of climate change, biodiversity loss and poverty in local communities in developing economies.
Developers have created and tested a functional prototype platform which is the first step in establishing an ethical ecosystem services credit that provides both an opportunity for investors to contribute directly to both the conservation of an important, endangered species, and provide positive livelihood opportunities for local communities where the species live. The pilot is working in Gabon, Africa. RBE is collaborating closely with the Government and local communities to plan how funds will be managed and distributed into the community to support and reinforce conservation activities.
This is an exciting first step in a long and important journey. Once the platform has proved its effectiveness; it can be scaled to include expansions of science and valuation methodology to other keystone species in different parts of the world.