Valuing Complex Natural Resource Systems

Valuing Complex Natural Resource Systems

The Case of the Lagoon of Venice

The Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei series on Economics, the Environment and Sustainable Development

Edited by Anna Alberini, Paolo Rosato and Margherita Turvani

In complex natural resource systems, modifications or disruptions tend to affect many and diverse components of the ecological system, settlements and groups of people. This book uses the Lagoon of Venice – a unique natural resource, wildlife habitat, centre of cultural heritage and recreational site – as an example of one such system that has been heavily affected by human activities, including the harvesting of natural resources and industrial production. The contributors explore the Lagoon’s potential for regeneration, examining public policies currently under consideration. The aim of these policies is to restore island coastlines and marshes, fish stocks, habitat and environmental quality, defend morphology and landscape through the strict control of fishing practices, and to protect the islands from high tides.

Introduction

Edited by Anna Alberini, Paolo Rosato and Margherita Turvani

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

Extract

Anna Alberini, Paolo Rosato and Margherita Turvani The Lagoon of Venice is a unique wildlife habitat and recreational site, and has been a World Heritage site since 1987. Its fisheries have provided sustenance to generations of residents of the city of Venice and of the surrounding region. To the founders of Venice, the Lagoon had a special strategic significance, and the Republic of Venice – the Serenissima – was well aware of the importance of preserving and managing this natural resource carefully. In an effort to protect the fish stocks, for example, laws were passed that prohibited harvesting fish smaller than a certain size. Rivers were diverted to reduce sedimentation and regulate the depth of the Lagoon waters. As a result, the Lagoon’s shallow waters protected the Republic of Venice from its enemies for one thousand years, making the city inaccessible from the sea and the mainland. The Lagoon of Venice is a complex system where ecological and socioeconomic dimensions have co-evolved over time: the delicate and complicated interrelationships between water quality and movement, coastline, flora, fauna, and human health and wealth constitute an interrelated whole where any modification or disruption tends to affect many and diverse components of the ecological system, settlements and groups of people. Clearly, the Lagoon has experienced a variety of natural and anthropic stimuli over the centuries. In recent decades, these stimuli have included agricultural pesticides and fertilizers runoff, hazardous wastes leachate and contaminated sediments from the chemical complex at Marghera and the industrial developments of the...