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The IPBES Conceptual Framework - connecting nature and people

2017-03-22l Hit 1221


 What does nature mean to you? When thinking of “nature,” a busy worker in a forest of buildings in the city may picture blue oceans and beautiful beaches. To a farmer who produces firm tomatoes in vibrant colors on his farm, land is a foundation of life. To a head of a mining company who is concerned with the development of a new diamond mine, nature is a subject of analysis from an economic perspective. Meanwhile, to people in a native village, mother nature is valuable in itself. Values and ways of viewing and understanding nature are widely different depending on people, nationality, and culture. Therein lies the first thing that numerous countries must do before collaborating to preserve nature and the ecosystem: to define “nature” as it is perceived by each country.

 In 2012, the International Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), an intergovernmental organization under the UN that studies biodiversity and ecosystem services, was established. The goal of this organization is to reinforce the interface between science and policy regarding biodiversity and ecosystem services in order to achieve preservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, the well-being of mankind, and sustainable development. The first study conducted by this organization after its establishment was to develop “The IPBES Conceptual Framework.” This study aimed to develop a framework showing the relationship between humans and nature, and organize related concepts in order to understand the structure and function of the ecosystem.

 In 1982, professor Yeo-chang Yoon of the Department of Forest Sciences at the College of Agricultural and Life Science, who wrote a paper about the value of nature in Korea for the first time, participated in a study developing “The IPBES Conceptual Framework,” representing Korea with a recommendation from the government. Professor Yoon says that preparing a common conceptual framework is crucial for making policies on biodiversity and ecosystem management. This is because each country has different values for nature and the ecosystem, and the ecosystem services include instrumental and relational values that reflect the culture and regime of each society.

 The conceptual framework of IPBES developed through the study is shown in the figure above. The six elements included in the conceptual framework are nature, anthropogenic assets, nature’s benefits to people, institutions and governance and other indirect drivers, direct drivers, and good quality of life. Representing the progression of time on the x-axis and the dimension of decision making on the y-axis, this framework shows the relationship between humans and nature by explaining the relationships between social and ecosystem elements that arise within these dimensions.

 Nature and humans exchange mutual effects. Depending on human actions, the long-term benefits that humans can receive from nature may increase or decrease. Humans can have direct or indirect effects on nature. Human economic activities that cause air pollution and result in acid rain have a direct effect. On the other hand, indirect effects can occur when increases in population accelerate global warming and change the ecosystem.

 Professor Yoon assessed that this study has a practical value of providing the scientific concepts necessary for experts and policymakers to prepare and evaluate various policies on nature and the ecosystem. He said that integrating the perceptions and concepts of nature and the ecosystem was challenging during the study because they were so diverse. However, he expressed that it was rewarding to conduct a study that could be the basis of consistent communication for future studies and policymaking concerning the related issues in numerous countries.

 Based on this study, IPBES is currently undertaking a project to create books about the ways in which nature is changing in the world by dividing it into five regions. Professor Yoon has joined the production of a book on biodiversity and ecosystem services in the Asia Pacific area between 2015 and 2018. He oversees studies for the second chapter, “Nature’s contribution to people.” It will be interesting to see what stories will be unraveled in his book, which will be published next year.


Student Reporter Shin, Hye-seon / Song, Iee-re