Handbook on the Economics of Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity
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Handbook on the Economics of Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity

Edited by Paulo A.L.D. Nunes, Pushpam Kumar and Tom Dedeurwaerdere

In recent years, there has been a marked proliferation in the literature on economic approaches to ecosystem management, which has created a subsequent need for real understanding of the scope and the limits of the economic approaches to ecosystems and biodiversity. Within this Handbook, carefully commissioned original contributions from acknowledged experts in the field address the new concepts and their applications, identify knowledge gaps and provide authoritative recommendations.
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Chapter 19: Biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services provision: a tale of confused objectives, multiple market failures and policy challenges

Jessica Coria, Elizabeth Robinson, Henrik G. Smith and Thomas Sterner


Human impacts on the environment are intensifying, raising seriously the fundamental questions of how to protect nature itself and how to best allocate the limited resources available for biodiversity conservation. Protecting 'Nature' is, however, a complex task that begs the question of what nature to protect and how. We believe there has been a tendency to use the word 'biodiversity' as a proxy for what we want to protect since it sounds more precise. This is, however, somewhat of a misunderstanding: biodiversity can be measured in a number of different ways and some measures would not give the answers we are intuitively seeking. This brings us to the question of whether we should put the emphasis on biodiversity itself or on the ecosystem services that may flow from a well-functioning ecosystem? The first approach focuses on biodiversity for its own sake, independent of human needs or preferences. The second focuses on preserving biodiversity for its role in promoting ecosystem services for the provision of goods, basic-life support services and human enjoyment of nature (Balvanera et al., 2001; Mace et al., 2012). So far there has been a relative imbalance in the attention devoted to the former as most research and funding in conservation has been oriented toward biodiversity per se, with until recently, little concrete effort towards conserving biodiversity for its role in ecosystem service production.

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