Jordan, with its very limited natural resources and dramatic water scarcity, is seriously affected by desertification, urbanization and a rapidly growing population. About 80% of the country’s territory can be defined as rangeland whose economic and ecological value gets still mostly neglected. Obvious effects of climate change like erosion and land degradation, as well as unsustainable practices like overgrazing, illegal logging and environmental pollution, cause all dramatic pressures on the highly vulnerable ecosystems and threaten their numerous services provided to the people.
Ecosystem services are still rarely evaluated and neither considered in the political decisions of the Jordanian government, nor recognized by the Jordanian society. The number of available and published case studies for the assessment and valuation of ecosystem services is still very small for Jordan. The Jordanian Ministry of Environment (existing since 2003) is currently developing its national biodiversity policy with guidelines for the assessment and valuation of ecosystem services as a mandatory policy strategy. The establishment of a national information system about ecosystem services, based on their professional assessment and valuation and related aspects of biodiversity conservation, is another main objective of the Ministry.
For these objectives, the input and cooperation of all relevant national governmental and civil society institutions are crucial. However, in general the networking and knowledge sharing as well as scientific exchange in the Kingdom are still on a low level and poorly developed. In spite of a high number of professionally working environmental NGO’s (the most influential of those being Royal NGO’s with a direct mandate from the Royal family) and a few academic scientists and research institutions dealing with several aspects of ecosystem services, existing case studies remain isolated, poorly distributed and acknowledged, and there are still very few effective working groups or networks, yet, which do unite environmental NGO’s, ecologists and biologists, researchers from different universities and faculties, governmental institutions and economists. IUCN’s Regional Office for West Asia (IUCN-ROWA) has worked on the mainstreaming of the importance and tools for the assessment and valuation of ecosystem services in the frame of several projects and initiatives (mostly related to sustainable rangeland management), but still the national awareness regarding this approach remains low and scientific or political actors are barely connected.
Recently, a highly promising task force group was established to develop a national strategy to manage invasive alien species in Jordan and assess their trade-offs and impact on ecosystems and their services, and IUCN-ROWA in cooperation with GIZ is taken forward the approach to introduce PES schemes into the Jordanian law and practice, as well as raising awareness for the economic importance of the rangeland ecosystem.
The GIZ project “Sustainable Use of Ecosystem Services in Jordan” (EKF-ESS, 20142019) initiated and supported many new activities and components related to the ES approach in close cooperation with the Ministry of Environment, IUCN-ROWA and multiple local partners.
An important goal of the EKF-ESS project is to establish an effective networking and information exchange about ecosystem services on a national level, in combination with increasing awareness of the importance of ecosystem services and their sustainable use and conservation in Jordan. The ESP National Network appears to be a perfect framework to achieve this goal and the sustainable and well-structured organizational frame for this exchange and to unite the interested stakeholders on multiple levels, to connect the still mostly separately working academic researchers of the country and bundle the national capacities to mainstream and establish the ecosystem service approach and recognition of the value of natural resources in the Jordanian policy and society.
Furthermore, recently first steps have been undertaken to build up a regional ES network among the 19 countries of the MENA (Middle East & North Africa) region. The EKF-ESS project organized the First Regional Conference on the Sustainable Use of Ecosystem Services in the MENA region, performed in Jordan, Dead Sea, from October 10-12, 2016, supported already by partners from Morocco, Palestine, Lebanon and Egypt. The ESP National Network for Jordan will function as a main driver and coordinator for the further structuring, setting and establishment of the ESP Regional Chapter for the MENA region, where UNDP in Morocco is willing to function as a co-coordinator during 2017.