If you think conversations about ecosystem markets are often quite technical or complex, you're not the only one.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), along with input from key stakeholders (Earthwatch InstituteWorld Resources InstituteKatoomba Group/Forest Trends, the US Business Council for Sustainable Development and FundacionEntorno) have developed a free, interactive and fun game about how ecosystem markets work.

The final test run of the game took place at the World Conservation Forum and Congress in Barcelona in October 2008, and the final version is now available online to download.

The “Buy, Sell, Trade!” game is a role-playing exercise that demonstrates the multiple benefits of preserving ecosystems for the services that they provide. Anyone can play the game, from all parts of society, from different positions, etc.

“The game helps people try to make ecosystem services ‘deals',”

Says Björn Stigson, president of the WBCSD.

“We hope it will provide insights into the many practical, political, economic, moral and accountability issues involved such ‘deals...’ and where trade-offs exist.”

The game is best played over at least three hours, and that's already enough for participants to see the importance of internalizing ecosystem values that are commonly left out of the marketplace.

Every part of society, including business, government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and other local stakeholders, depends directly or indirectly on the sustainable management of ecosystems and the services they provide. For example, wetland ecosystems help purify water, provide recreation and a buffer against natural disasters.

“Everyone would benefit in the long-term if there was a common understanding of both the value of these services, and the larger role that market mechanisms play as a complement to existing strategies for conserving ecosystems,”

Says Julia Marton-Lefèvre, director general of the IUCN.

In fact, market mechanisms can be more cost-effective than regulatory approaches. In some instances, market mechanisms are incorporated into laws and/or regulations.

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