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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 4: Sustainable development and changes in the genetic stock and in ecosystems

Clement A. Tisdell


Without adequate and suitable biological resources, humankind could no longer exist. Human beings depend inextricably on other living things to supply them with food. In addition, they need water for their existence, and its supply and quality depends on the nature of ecosystems. Although human well-being has become increasingly dependent on the use of non-renewable, non-living resources (these resources, for example, now provide shelter, energy, means of transport and fibres), they are not as fundamental to human survival as biological resources. Furthermore, should non-renewable resources become depleted, biological resources could provide substitute commodities for many of those currently supplied by non-renewable resources. In addition, apart from supplying services essential to human existence, biological resources supply other services that add significantly to human well-being (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2003; 2005). Therefore, it is appropriate to give particular attention to the economics of sustaining the supply of biological resources. There is no doubt that significant loss of biological resources can threaten the sustainability of human welfare and restrict economic development.

For the reasons outlined in the previous chapter, market and political failures (which adversely affect the conservation of biological resources and ecosystems) result in economic welfare being lower than it could be. These failures can also result in unsustainable economic development, for example, inability to maintain the future well-being of individuals and the level or growth of GDP. However, these failures are not the only possible source of unsustainable economic development. Actions and strong desires by existing individuals to...

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