Table of Contents

Valuing Ecosystem Services

Valuing Ecosystem Services

Methodological Issues and Case Studies

Edited by K. N. Ninan

Conserving biodiversity and ecosystem services is critical to promoting human welfare and sustainable development. Ecosystem services valuation has therefore recently assumed prominence in research and policy circles. In this illuminating volume, leading experts from around the world discuss the key methodological issues and challenges in valuing ecosystem services. Covering a cross-section of ecosystems and services in different sites, countries and regions, the collection also usefully presents case studies that value ecosystem services and experiences with operationalising valuation into policy.

Chapter 3: Valuing ecosystem services using benefit transfer: separating credible and incredible approaches

John Loomis, Leslie Richardson, Timm Kroeger and Frank Casey

Subjects: environment, ecological economics


Ecosystem goods and services are now widely recognized as the benefits that humans derive from the natural environment around them including abiotic (e.g. atmosphere) and biotic components. The work by Costanza et al. (1997) to value the world’s ecosystem services brought the concept of ecosystem service valuation to the attention of the world press and environmental economists working in the area of non-market valuation. The article’s US$33 trillion estimate of these services, despite world GDP being only US$18 trillion, was definitely headline grabbing. This ambitious effort was undertaken with reliance on transferring existing values per unit from other (often site specific) valuation studies. Benefit transfer (see Boyle and Bergstrom, 1992; Rosenberger and Loomis, 2000, 2001) involves transfers of values per unit from an area that has been valued using primary valuation methods such as contingent valuation, travel cost or hedonic property methods (Champ et al., 2003) to areas for which values are needed. Benefit transfer often provides a reasonable approximation of the benefit of unstudied ecosystem services based on transfer of benefits estimates per unit (per visitor day, per acre) from existing studies. An appropriate benefit transfer should be performed on the same spatial scale of analysis (e.g. reservoir to reservoir, city to city) as the original study. However, the reasonableness of benefit transfer may be strained when applying locally derived per acre values from studies of several thousand acres of a resource such as wetlands to hundreds of millions of acres of wetlands.

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