This Technical Brief preceded the development of the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC) integrated protocol for working agricultural lands intended to generate soil carbon, net greenhouse gases (GHG), water quality, and water quantity credits or assets for sale in ESMC’s national market. The first generation ESMC protocol, developed for use in rangeland, grassland, pastureland and cropping systems in the Southern Great Plains, is currently being pilot tested. The brief examines existing soil carbon, water quality, and water quantity protocols, and summarizes findings which include the state of the science underlying the relationships between ecosystem services and soil health in the context of markets for carbon, water quality, and water quantity. The main objective of this assessment was to provide a foundational reference to support and inform the development of ESMC’s integrated, modular protocols. The brief and all compiled materials also served to forecast opportunities and challenges anticipated when developing ESMCs integrated ecosystem services protocol.
The technical brief summarizes the following for carbon, water quality, and water quantity:
- state of science between each ecosystem services and soil health;
- findings for protocol components (data collection and management, quantification tools, aggregation methods, monitoring, reporting, and verification);
- findings for priority elements (scalability, scientifically rigorous, transparency, standards-based, farmer-facing, and legal considerations); and
- research needs and data gaps
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A “Master Protocol Assessment Table” is provided under separate cover that serves as a detailed compilation of important protocol elements examined in this technical brief.