Economics and Ecosystem Services

A positive contribution to environmental management

Authored by: R. Kerry Turner

Routledge Handbook of Ecosystem Services

Print publication date:  January  2016
Online publication date:  January  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138025080
eBook ISBN: 9781315775302
Adobe ISBN:


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In terms of the modern history of economic theory and applications, the notion of human welfare benefits derived from ecosystems first came to prominence in the 1970s. Attempts were made to classify ecosystems from an anthropocentric utilitarian perspective in terms of their structural and functional characteristics and their usefulness (instrumental value) to humans (Westman, 1977). The main motivation at the time was to bring the need for more biodiversity conservation up the public and political agendas. Wetlands were among the first ecosystems focused on, but ranking wetlands in terms of conservation value was, even in the 1970s, controversial if only because of the scientific uncertainties surrounding the extent of current and future functional services produced by any given site. Furthermore, it was recognised that value in nature was a multidimensional concept and the assigned ecosystem services value of a wetland area could be conditioned by a range of ethical, religious, aesthetic or recreational private and public preferences and needs. But there was a general consensus that at the very least efforts to quantify and value ecosystem services were heuristically worthwhile (Westman, 1977).

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