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Toward ecosystem accounts for Rwanda: Tracking 25 years of change in potential supply and flows of ecosystem services

December 9, 2019

1. Rwanda, a small but rapidly developing central African nation, has undertaken development of natural capital accounts to better inform its economic development through the World Bank’s Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES) Partnership. In this paper, we develop ecosystem service (ES) models to quantify the physical supply components of ecosystem accounts in Rwanda from 1990 to 2015.

2. We applied the InVEST carbon storage, sediment delivery ratio, and annual and seasonal water yield models to map changes in potential ES supply nationwide. We also quantified flows of sediment and water to 96 hydroelectric dam, irrigation dam, and water treatment plant sites.

3. Over a 25-year period, we found declines in all ES, which were most strongly driven by conversion of forests to cropland. Declines were most pronounced from 1990 to 2000 and 2010 to 2015; ES were relatively stable from 2000 to 2010. From 2010 to 2015, over 42% of Rwanda’s water-use sites (representing 17% of the nation’s hydroelectric generation capacity and 69% of its water treatment capacity) had increases in sediment export and quick flow greater than the national average.

4. Our results quantify nationwide ES trends, their implications for key water-dependent industries, and the importance of protected areas in safeguarding ES potential supply and flows in Rwanda. They also provide data that can be integrated with existing land, water, and economic accounts for Rwanda, as well as a baseline to inform development strategies that better link economic and environmental goals.