Measuring conditions and trends in ecosystem services at multiple scales: The Southern African Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (SAfMA) experience
van Jaarsveld, A.
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The Southern African Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (SAfMA) evaluated the relationships between ecosystem services and human well-being at multiple scales, ranging from local through to sub-continental. Trends in ecosystem services (fresh water, food, fuel-wood, cultural and biodiversity) over the period 1990-2000 were mixed across scales. Freshwater resources appear strained across the continent with large numbers of people not securing adequate supplies, especially of good quality water. This translates to high infant mortality patterns across the region. In some areas, the use of water resources for irrigated agriculture and urban-industrial expansion is taking place at considerable cost to the quality and quantity of freshwater available to ecosystems and for domestic use. Staple cereal production across the region has increased but was outstripped by population growth while protein malnutrition is on the rise. The much-anticipated wood-fuel crisis on the subcontinent has not materialized but some areas are experiencing shortages while numerous others remain vulnerable. Cultural benefits of biodiversity are considerable, though hard to quantify or track over time. Biodiversity resources remain at reasonable levels, but are declining faster than reflected in species extinction rates and appear highly sensitive to land-use decisions. The SAfMA sub-global assessment provided an opportunity to experiment with innovative ways to assess ecosystem services including the use of supply-demand surfaces, service sources and sink areas, priority areas for service provision, service "hotspots" and trade-off assessments.
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