AgoraNatura is now online: Germany's first online-marketplace for certified nature conservation projects
As of the end of September 2020, companies and private individuals can use the new onlinemarketplace at www.agora-natura.de to invest in biodiversity and ecosystem services in Germany. Through voluntary, flexible payments they can, for instance, contribute to the preservation of meadow orchards, the development of biodiverse agricultural fields or the implementation of protection sites for certain target species.
The involvement of civil society is essential to tackle the urgent environmental challenge of biodiversity loss and habitat degradation. AgoraNatura aims to generate additional private funding for the safeguarding of nature and to strengthen public knowledge about biodiversity and ecosystem services. To achieve this goal, AgoraNatura connects land users and environmental organisations with committed private individuals and companies. The online-marketplace is an engaging, easy-to-use digital tool that strives to facilitate more collaborative, voluntary conservation action on the ground. The regional scope of AgoraNatura is presently limited to projects located in Germany.
In order to appeal to new private conservation supporters, AgoraNatura puts the scientific ecosystem services concept into practice: all projects on AgoraNatura are certified according to the newly-developed and independent Naturplus standard. This science-based standard describes criteria for effective conservation projects, which ensures a high quality of all projects on the platform. In addition, the Naturplus standard requires the quantification of expected project benefits on biodiversity and ecosystem services. The standard provides recognized methods to assess the effects of various project types, for example regarding plant and animal diversity, genetic diversity, avoided CO2 emissions and reduced impacts on ground water and surface waters. To support project developers, such as farmers and local environmental actors, in planning their AgoraNatura projects, quantification methods and various project type templates are being further developed. In relation to this, Dr. Bettina Matzdorf, Professor for Ecosystem Services Governance and leader of the AgoraNatura project, points out that "the ongoing development of the Naturplus standard is an open and collaborative process, to which interested researchers are welcome to contribute". The currently accepted methods can be found at naturplus-standard.de/english (more English information on the website will follow soon).
The actual "products" of the online-marketplace are nature conservation certificates, which describe and visualise the expected positive effects on biodiversity and ecosystem services. Each certificate is an area-related share of a certified conservation project with a validity of 100 sqm and one year. Thanks to transparent information about project effects and location, businesses and individuals can make targeted investments in biodiversity and ecosystem services precisely where it is important to them. AgoraNatura has something to offer for every budget - some certificates are available from less than 10 Euros. Already prior to the launch of the platform, five pilot projects have been financed by companies, which shows the appeal of this concept for private funders.
Word about the AgoraNatura has already spread among international ecosystem services researchers. Dr Rudolf de Groot, Chair of the Ecosystem Services Partnership (www.es-partnership.org) and Associate Professor at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, supports the idea of an online-marketplace for biodiversity and ecosystem services. "It is one thing to demonstrate that nature is important and has many economic values. But to translate that value into real money is an essential next step. This marketplace provides the opportunity for that," de Groot says.
As AgoraNatura establishes itself over time, it will develop into a valuable data source to analyse a real market for public environmental goods. "For example, on the demand side, information about preferences and motives is collected. On the supply side, data is gathered about the kinds of ecosystem services offered and the contractual designs used," explains Professor Dr. Matzdorf. Research experiments in the field of environmental communication are equally as feasible as the integration of surveys or other digital tools.
- Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF)
- University of Greifswald
- Environmental Action Germany (DUH)
- German Association for Landcare (DVL)
The project is supported by the joint funding initiative "Research for the Implementation of the National Biodiversity Strategy" by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) as well as the BMU's "Federal Programme for Biological Diversity" (2015-2021).