Economics and Ecosystems
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Economics and Ecosystems

Efficiency, Sustainability and Equity in Ecosystem Management

Lars Hein

Economics and Ecosystems demonstrates how the concepts of economic efficiency, sustainability and equity can be applied in ecosystem management. The book presents an overview of these three concepts, a framework for their analysis and modelling, and three case studies. Specific attention is given to how complex ecosystem dynamics, such as thresholds or irreversible responses, influence ecosystem management options. The case studies focus on ecosystem dynamics and ecosystem services supply in a forest ecosystem, a Dutch wetland, and a rangeland in the Western Sahel.
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Chapter 2: Ecological–Economic Concepts

Lars Hein


EFFICIENCY–SUSTAINABILITY–EQUITY Introduction In the last decades, a broad consensus has emerged that ecosystem management needs to consider and balance social, economic and environmental criteria (also expressed as people–profit–planet). In general terms, economic efficiency expresses the generation of welfare, based on an optimal use of natural resources and other production factors. Social criteria deal with such aspects as the distribution of welfare among people, and their involvement and representation in decision making. Environmental sustainability expresses, in general terms, whether the use of a natural resource does not exceed the regenerative capacity of that resource and if the resource is maintained at an adequate level to permit future uses. This section describes these basic concepts of economic efficiency, equity and sustainability in more detail. Clearly, they are not the only criteria for decision making on ecosystem management. For instance, legal and technical criteria will often also determine the design of a project or management strategy. However, the three aforementioned criteria are among the most important ones for ecosystem management. In addition, ecosystem management often involves trade-offs between these criteria, which means that they need to be considered in an integrated manner. The three concepts are, at times, difficult to apply, and a whole literature is devoted to each of them. This section provides a brief overview, focussing on their general principles and their implications for ecosystem management. In addition, Section 2.1.5 briefly discusses discounting in ecosystem management. Discounting involves the comparison of present and future costs and benefits,...

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