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Sustaining Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functions

Economic Issues

Clement A. Tisdell

This innovative book identifies socio-economic processes which transform the stock of genetic resources and ecosystems and discusses sustainability issues raised by variations in this stock. It focuses subsequently on the socio-economics of the conservation and change in the stock of human developed germplasm and ecosystems. Particular attention is given to crops, livestock, GMOs, reduced economic value due to biological erosion, alternative agroecosystems, and property rights in germplasm. The book concludes with an exploration of the economic topics dealing with changes in the stock of wild germplasm and natural ecosystems, and discusses the associated valuation problems.
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Chapter 2: Classifying the stock of genetic resources and ecosystems: their economic nature and patterns of biodiversity change

Clement A. Tisdell


Although biological taxonomies of living organisms are useful, other types of classification can be of greater help when considering the nature and economics of biodiversity change. Simple classifications are outlined in this chapter which make it clear that our current stock of genetic resources and ecosystems only consist partly of natural capital. Some (probably most) of our highly valued genetic resources and ecosystems are primarily the result of human effort and investment. This is not to suggest that natural genetic resources and ecosystems cannot be very valuable from an economics point of view. In fact, they usually have greater total economic value than is commonly realized. For example, natural wetlands and swamps are frequently seen by members of the general public as being of little or no economic value, but as pointed out in the Report on The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) (de Groot et al., 2010, pp. 379–83), they often prove to be very valuable when all (or many of) their ecosystem services are accounted for.

Although some transformations of natural ecosystems by humans have reduced their total economic value, other transformations have added considerably to the economic value of biosphere use, despite these transformations not always being ideal.

The above perspective is not intended to downplay the importance of naturally occurring germplasm. Natural germplasm has provided the initial basis for the human development of germplasm for many bio-industries such as in agriculture, forestry, aquaculture and for some biological applications...

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