Edited by Robert Halvorsen and David F. Layton
Chapter 7: Bioeconomics: nature as capital
The idea that ecosystems generate value is foundational in environmental and resource economics (Brown 2000; Freeman 2003). The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005) placed the issue of valuing nature at the forefront of many interdisciplinary policy discussions (Daily et al. 2000; Worm et al. 2006; Daily et al. 2009; Polasky and Segerson 2009), and the importance of considering the value of ecosystems is now pervasive and important to a variety of disciplines outside of economics. The degree to which ecosystem services are benefits or factor inputs remains a subject of debate (Boyd and Banzhaf 2007; Barbier 2011), but there is little dispute that ecosystems are factors in generating human welfare (Barbier 2007). Ecological stocks are forms of capital because ecosystems provide a measureable flow of services to people (Wilen 1985; Crocker and Tschirhart 1992; Clark 2005; Dasgupta 2007; Turner and Daily 2008; Arrow et al. 2012). Non-marketed capital, including important forms of ecological and biological stocks (for example, wild populations), plays a central role in broader debates about sustainability (Arrow et al. 2004; Heal 2012). But not all natural stocks are goods; many natural stocks can act as liabilities or ‘bad’ capital (for example, pests, invasive species). Critically, many stocks can be capital assets or liabilities depending on the current state of the world and the management of the stock (Zivin et al. 2000; Rondeau 2001; Horan and Bulte 2004).
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