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26 October 2022

ASI engaged the University of the Sunshine Coast in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy to undertake a study with Indigenous people to better understand ecosystem services (ES).

New developments, such as mines, are increasingly required to undertake environmental and social impact assessments.  However, few address the ES that are valued by local communities. As a result, mine site management, rehabilitation, and compensation activities may fail to prevent the loss of some ES, particularly those valued by remote Indigenous communities where peoples’ wellbeing is tightly linked to nature.

ES are provided by ‘natural capital’ assets such as forests, rivers and oceans, and they contribute to human wellbeing. There are 4 main categories of ES:

  • Provisioning: timber, bush foods, marine food sources.
  • Regulating: water purification, soil protection, climate control, pollination.
  • Supporting: nutrient cycling, habitat provision for plants and animals.
  • Cultural: identity, knowledge systems, sacred sites, spirituality.

This study considered a region rich in both natural capital and Indigenous culture – western Cape York Peninsula in northern Australia. As part of this project, the local Indigenous communities identified the ES most valued by them. An introductory guide was developed to help better understand and navigate ES and explore models of payment for ecosystem services (PES).

In PES models, partnerships of landowners, Indigenous peoples and/or communities are paid by an investor to implement management activities that have positive ES impacts.  PES investors may include conservation funds, mining companies, and other organisations looking for positive social impact and reputational opportunities and biodiversity conservation outcomes.

There is strong community interest in trading in PES markets to further support local Indigenous people’s livelihoods – providing employment and other economic opportunities from living on and caring for traditional lands. ASI are working with project partners to develop a trial project with a focus on implementation of PES and options for application in multiple jurisdictions.


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