Johnson center to lead marine ecosystem group

Mark Milstein

The Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management’s Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise will lead a $2.3 million effort to improve economic links to marine ecosystems following the signing of an agreement Nov. 6 by the World Bank in Washington, D.C.

Mark Milstein, clinical professor of management and director of the center, will lead a team of international researchers to improve the link between local economies and the natural wealth of coastal communities in the East Asia-Pacific region.

“In many tropical coastal areas, natural capital is in decline as human populations expand and the value of ecosystem services is misunderstood, overlooked or ignored in a quest for economic progress,” said Milstein. “In the long run, both existing businesses and entrepreneurial ventures must operate so they benefit from, and maintain the value of, critical coastal ecosystem services.”

Johnson will partner with the Capturing Coral Reef and Related Ecosystem Services (CCRES) Project for East Asia and Pacific. The CCRES team will calculate a value for the services provided to communities by natural assets, including seagrass beds, mangroves and coral reef ecosystem services, that have the potential to enhance the sustainability of marine-based enterprise and marine spatial planning in coastal communities in Indonesia and the Philippines.

The signing of a Head Agreement between the World Bank and the University of Queensland (UQ), Australia, draws on Cornell’s expertise  in coastal and marine research and management science applications for sustainability. CCRES is funded by the Global Environment Facility via an investment administered by the World Bank and UQ. The CCRES project will be managed by UQ’s Global Change Institute.

Additional funding for CCRES activities will involve Drew Harvell, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, who will join a team valuing ecosystem services that contribute to regional policy decisions. Cornell’s involvement in CCRES evolved from Harvell’s prior research on coral reef health. Cornell’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future helped to catalyze the university’s involvement in the project.

“By partnering in CCRES, we will work with communities in the East Asia-Pacific – more than 450 million of whom live below the poverty line – to integrate ecosystems and business to protect valuable marine ecosystems in the heart of the coral triangle,” said Harvell. “Being a partner in CCRES enables Cornell to make a timely and critical contribution to the livelihoods, food security, climate resilience and well-being of coastal communities in the heart of a region with the fastest-growing population on the planet.”According to Marea Hatziolos, senior coastal and marine specialist in the East Asia-Pacific region at the World Bank, the wealth of natural capital has the potential to be a major driver of inclusive “green growth” in the region.

“There’s enormous potential if we can transform the development and stewardship of coastal areas by translating ecological value into financial terms for local stakeholders and policymakers,” Hatziolos said. “We especially need better resource governance regimes, measures to adequately value the environment for current and future generations when calculating economic benefits, and good scientific information to inform decision-making and trade-offs.”

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John Carberry