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“Services. Define. The many benefits provided to us by nature from plants producing the oxygen oxygen that we breathe to insects pollinating crops and beautiful landscapes. Inspiring and uplifting our healthy ecosystems allow for human life to exist and thrive the healthier supporting ecosystems.
The more reliable the flow of benefits they provide but this poses a fundamental question how can we value these services when looking at a single service. The task of economic valuation can be relatively simple let s take for example fish in a pond. The price of fish has an accepted market value so the total stock of fish could be calculated against the cost of maintaining and running the pond. But in this case.
We do not value any of the other benefits often more hidden like water quality needed to maintain a healthy population of water filtering organisms essential for the fish s survival. This shows the risk of using a simplified approach as the complexities of ecosystems. Which underpin the fish stock may not be apparent let s look at the same pond again. But this time we look beyond the fish to the water.
We drink the recreational and aesthetic pleasure of the lake itself to how it helps prevent floods by storing water. Some of these services like the cultural and recreational ones. Don t have a direct market value so to include them we need to use other methods such as revealed preference. Let s consider fishing.
We can assign a market value to the permit and the expenditure on equipment these costs can serve as surrogate market values that are indicative of the value of the fish stock water quality and wider fishing experience yet. This is still only part of the picture as it doesn t really capture the joy and pleasure of being in the outdoors accommodating those other less tangible. But significant benefits of the pond to the wider community in economic terms can be more difficult because people place value on different things. Which can lead to conflicts yet.
There are methods. Which attempt to quantify these such as willingness to pay surveys where people are asked how much they value an area or choice experiments. Where people have to rate. What they value the most from alternative options or the commonly used technique of environmental impact assessment where ecologists estimate the environmental consequences of a proposed development yet all these methods assume that money is a universally understood and valued substitute.
Which is simply not the case. Perhaps accounts are needed that reflect both easily measured resources and less visible benefits from nature making the contribution of natural capital to economic development. More obvious for example ecosystem accounting. Where detailed statistics help value the total stocks and flows of natural resources.
And services. Ecosystem. Accounting. Could help reflect the true value of an agricultural ecosystem.
Beyond. Food production. Alone. At a larger scale.
It could even become a vital measure. Alongside gdp. This said some argue that by relating nature to monetary values. We expose it to the forces of a market.
That has no incentive to prevent its disruption. Current markets. Do not take into account. The time and specific conditions needed for an ecosystem to exist and therefore.
Many of the attributes that may make it irreplaceable. However. The risk is that without these efforts to measure and value the environment the default value is zero when it comes to valuing ecosystem services. It s important to remember that values are always illustrative reflecting relative importance assigned by different people ecosystems themselves existed long before money was invented so all decisions should be informed.
But never dominated by a revolving capacities to value nature s services overall. There is hope that measuring and valuing the environment will raise awareness to decision makers about the essential role it plays in ensuring our long term. Well being and therefore can lead to better. More balanced global and local decisions.
Allowing for the essential debates and transparency. That are vital for sustainable human development. To find out more about natural capital. Accounting or ecosystem.
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