Unlocking and securing ecological infrastructure investments: The needs and willingness to invest and institutional support mechanisms used
Keywords:ecological infrastructure, degradation, investments, mechanisms
Ecological infrastructure (EI) is a natural and near-natural functioning ecosystem that delivers a range of essential services to humankind. Examples include mountain catchments, wetlands, coastal dunes, and riparian corridors. In a world where EI is underinvested, rapid degradation and threats such as unsustainable veld-fire regimes, droughts, climate change, and invasive alien plants persist in dominating the ecological landscape. In South Africa, there are government programmes that encourage the restoration, rehabilitation and protection of EI. However, inadequate funding allocations constrain scaling-up and thus necessitate the unlocking of public and private sector investments to augment resources for ecosystem-based management interventions. A systematic literature review was conducted at a global scale to (1) understand the drivers behind EI investments, (2) understand the willingness and desire of private landowners and land users to participate and contribute to EI investments and (3) identify institutional support mechanisms used to encourage investments. Results suggest that the need to invest is driven by growing degradation of EI and the urgency to meet environmental sustainability goals. The willingness to invest is stimulated by the use of economic-based policies and compensatory mechanisms. Public–private partnerships, public policy, and market-based conservation instruments are institutional arrangements executed to protect EI. These include processes and systems used by the institutions to legislate and manage interventions towards fulfilling the conservation objective. Our review contributes to the EI investment research agenda by recommending coordinated efforts to encourage EI investment from both public and private partners. These measures will help to secure financial resources and mobilise investments beyond monetary terms by coordinating planning and developing capacity and reform policies.
- Reviewing international experiences on ecological infrastructure investments will help to inform the Natural Resources Management programmes’ efforts to upscale the investments essential to conserve natural ecosystems. The lessons from the systematic review will further reveal other related natural ecosystem investment processes from which to learn. Therefore, gaining a global understanding of these lessons provides evidence-based advice for policy development and decision-making processes which seek to protect natural ecosystems for present and future generations.
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