Chapter 16: Valuing and sustaining natural ecosystem services: assumptions, estimates and public policies
The valuation of the supply of ecosystem services, particularly on a global or a macro-scale, is an extremely challenging but important subject requiring a multidisciplinary approach. In recent decades, there has been increased interest in using economic techniques to value these services. Costanza et al. (2014) describes this as a huge surge in interest and points out that ‘hundreds of projects and groups are currently working toward better understanding, modelling, valuation and management of ecosystem services and natural capital’ (Costanza et al., 2014, pp. 152–8). Although the goal of such effort (namely to improve human well-being or avoid avoidable reductions in it) is commendable, it is also important to scrutinize scholarly and other efforts intended to achieve this goal. This chapter extends earlier discussions in this book of ecosystem valuation and the role of natural capital in sustaining human well-being. It does this first by adding to the previous discussion about the contribution of natural capital to human well-being and by further considering the classification of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005) of ecosystem services. Attention is then given, focusing mainly on Costanza et al. (2014), to assessing the significance of recent economic estimates of the value of ecosystem services. Subsequently, some basic limitations of economic techniques commonly used to value ecosystem services are identified.
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