Handbook on the Economics of Natural Resources

Handbook on the Economics of Natural Resources

Edited by Robert Halvorsen and David F. Layton

The topics discussed in the Handbook on the Economics of Natural Resources are essential for those looking to understand how best to use and conserve the resources that form the foundation for human well-being. These include nonrenewable resources, modeling of biological resources, conservation of biological resources and water resources. The expert contributors of this Handbook provide solutions to many of the problems that growing populations now face, and sketch the likely future developments in the field of natural resource economics whilst paving the way for new thinking.

Chapter 12: Ecosystem services

Edward B. Barbier

Subjects: economics and finance, environmental economics, environment, environmental economics


There is an emerging consensus among economists and ecologists that ecosystems should be viewed as economic assets that produce a flow of beneficial goods and services over time, which are commonly referred to as ecosystem services (MA 2005). Such benefits are diverse and wide-ranging, and generally arise through the natural functioning of relatively undisturbed ecosystems. For example, as Daily et al. (2000, p. 395) state, ‘the world’s ecosystems are capital assets. If properly managed, they yield a flow of vital services, including the production of goods (such as seafood and timber), life support processes (such as pollination and water purification), and life-fulfilling conditions (such as beauty and serenity).’ The unique way in which such valuable and myriad ‘services’ arise from ecosystems distinguishes them as a unique form of wealth, or ecological capital (Barbier 2011a).

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