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The University of Southampton
Biological Sciences

TESSA: Toolkit for Ecosystem Service Site-based Assessment

The Toolkit for Ecosystem Service Site-based Assessment (TESSA), developed by Dr Kelvin Peh and advanced at Southampton’s School for Biological Sciences, has enabled conservationists to rapidly measure and evaluate the benefits to local communities of sites of biodiversity importance, and to assess their sensitivity to land use change.

Context

Intact ecosystems provide critical benefits for human wellbeing. Such benefits, termed ‘ecosystem services’ (ESs), are vital in limiting risks that local communities face from climate change and natural disasters.

The provision of ESs is in serious decline. In order to prioritise the conservation of sites of natural habitat, reliable information is needed about which sites are the most crucial for generating ESs.

Domestic use of water at Moeyugyi Wetland
Domestic use of water at Moeyugyi Wetland

Research challenge

Developed by Dr Kelvin Peh, TESSA is the first tool that that puts information on ESs directly into the hands of local conservation practitioners.

Through collaboration with international and local environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs), Dr Peh piloted TESSA in different habitats across the world, including mountain forest in Nepal, tropical forest in Monserrat, and fenland in the UK. This work, undertaken during Dr Peh’s employment at Southampton, allowed TESSA to be used for complete ES assessment by key policymakers, NGOs and conservation bodies, achieving a wide range of benefits as detailed below.

Ducks grazing on molluscs at Moeyungyi Wetland
Ducks grazing on molluscs at Moeyungyi Wetland

Influencing international biodiversity policy

A key user of TESSA is the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), an international body that provides policymakers and decision-makers with objective scientific assessments of the state of ecosystem services and biodiversity.

IPBES highlights the toolkit as “relatively low cost compared with many other tools, and does not require advanced technical skills” and “applicable to users from developing and developed countries”.

Bird Conservation Nepal, an environmental NGO, used TESSA to assemble data on the ESs of community-managed forests, and the key threats to their sustainability. This fed into Nepal’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, resulting in biodiversity protection being incorporated into the operational plans of at least 45 community-managed forests across the country.

Dr Peh’s use of TESSA in Myanmar’s Moeyungyi wetland reserve has informed the global standard approach for documenting ESs for Key Biodiversity Areas, governed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Shaping conservation strategies and action planning

TESSA has been used by RESTORE, a part-EU-funded major partnership between seven organisations across northwest Europe, to identify and compare the benefits provided by different rehabilitation strategies at ten quarries in the region. This has led to the development of a framework for restoring mineral sites, thereby bringing benefits for biodiversity, local people and local economies.

TESSA was used locally in a collaboration between the University of Southampton and the UK Environment Agency in 2017 to assess options to manage the water level of the River Itchen at its tidal confluence within Southampton’s Riverside Park. This led to the decommissioning of a derelict sluice gate and the conservation of the local cultural, economic and environmental importance of Riverside Park and the River Itchen.

Participatory workshop - applying TESSA at Moeyungyi Wetland
Participatory workshop - applying TESSA at Moeyungyi Wetland

Capacity-building for ecosystem service assessment

TESSA has been incorporated into the online toolkits of influential international conservation initiatives, including the Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network (GEOBON) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s Natural Capital Protocol.

Additionally, local NGOs have applied the TESSA framework and methods globally in at least 96 protected and unprotected areas in 26 countries to highlight the multiple benefits that people obtained from nature conservation.

The Kenya-based Tropical Biology Association (TBA) conducted a series of TESSA training courses, leading to its use in eight further sub-Saharan African countries. Feedback that reflected personal change among the participants included: “TESSA has given me a new direction” and “I can see how communities can benefit from services around them and how I can communicate this”.

Associated projects

Toolkit for Ecosystem Service

Key Publications

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