This project summarises research undertaken for IUCN to develop a methodology for multi-criteria assessment of biodiversity which takes into account a multitude of criteria and stakeholder perspectives. The proposed methodology will be of particular value for developing countries, where conflicts of interest regarding ecosystems and biodiversity are numerous and often involve businesses, government, local residents, and other stakeholders.
The project reviews the state of the art in the field of multi-criteria methods and assessment of ecosystems and biodiversity. The review included a discussion of the fundamental principles of multi-criteria decision aid, its importance for the assessment of ecosystems as an alternative to monetary valuation techniques and covered a wide spectrum of applications. It presents the results of analytical work undertaken on the basis of interviews carried out in the Provence–Alpes–Côte d'Azur (PACA) region of France, focusing on biodiversity in the Réserve Naturelle Coussouls de Crau.
The project addresses three main issues: selection of the multi-criteria assessment method, selection of the assessment criteria, and a comparison of stakeholder interests in the context of biodiversity analysis. Identification of potential decision criteria was based on a survey of key stakeholders, namely Management of the Réserve Naturelle Coussouls de Crau; Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, a national biodiversity research institution; the Laissez-faire Association, protecting the interests of the agricultural community; CDC Biodiversité (a branch of Caisse des Dépôts), a group carrying out long-term investments in the public interest; and Direction regionale de l'environnement Provence–Alpes–Côte d'Azur (DIREN-PACA).
Based on these interviews, 14 ecological, nine economic, and 12 social criteria were identified. Further analysis revealed very few points of overlap among the interests of the
stakeholders, which complicates the case for consensus building.
Not accepting the idea that the value of ecosystems and biodiversity can be expressed in monetary terms, the author suggests an alternative, more inclusive approach, focusing on multiple social, economic, and ecological dimensions of ecosystem value, and illustrates the existence of divergent interests among the stakeholders. This experience would be particularly useful in situations where local communities have to defend their right to a clean environment and preserve important virgin ecosystems for the future generations.