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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 8: Human developed and modified ecosystems: their economic value

Clement A. Tisdell


In recent times, considerable attention has been given (both by economists and natural scientists) to the economic value of natural ecosystems and in particular to their importance as suppliers of natural capital and providers of valuable goods and services. Much less consideration has been given to the economic value of human developed and modified (natural) ecosystems, such as those present in agriculture, aquaculture and silviculture. In fact, many discussions of the economic value of ecosystems (such as that of Brown et al., 2007) focus entirely on the value of natural ecosystems. Even when the economic value of human developed or modified ecosystems is recognized, they usually receive minimal coverage, as in the TEEB project examining the economics of ecosystems and biodiversity (Kumar, 2010), an aspect discussed in Tisdell (2014a). Why does this apparent bias exist?

One of the reasons might be a belief that human developed or modified ecosystems do not satisfy the basic requirements for the existence of an ecosystem. This possibility is discussed below. Another reason could be that individuals have typically failed to appreciate the total economic value of natural ecosystems but are more aware of the economic value of those developed by human beings. Therefore, this bias could be an attempt to redress this imbalance. A third possibility is that this emphasis is designed to offset a perceived political imbalance. Those seeking to convert natural ecosystems to private use by altering them usually proclaim the economic value of this transformation. By contrast,...

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