Ecological Economics and Ecosystem Services

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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During the 1970s a debate involving natural science, economic and social science perspectives emerged around the issue of the ‘value’ of ecosystems and biodiversity. Given the inherent complexity of nature, it is not surprising that the concept of ‘value’ is open to multiple interpretations and meanings. A number of different dimensions of nature-based value (see Potschin and Haines-Young, 2016) can be discerned and evaluated in different ways, e.g. in monetary terms via economic analysis and the concept of total economic value (TEV, where TEV = use value + non-use value (existence and bequest values)); in biophysical and geochemical terms via natural science; in more qualitative terms via sociology, cultural geography and the arts and humanities; etc. Each of these value dimensions has validity in its own domain. Environmental philosophers have constructed a generic value typology with four categories: anthropocentric instrumental value, which maps closely on to the economic concepts of use and most of non-use values; anthropocentric intrinsic value, a culturally dependent concept which is linked to human stewardship of nature motivation and which needs a human to ascribe intrinsic value to non-human nature – the economist’s idea of existence value may overlap into this value category. The other two value categories – non-anthropocentric instrumental value and non- anthropocentric intrinsic value – are less directly relevant to the policy initiatives, unless in the latter value category’s case a radical ethical position is accepted as the societal norm, which is currently not the case (Hargrove, 1992). But, while this academic thinking and debate was necessary and heuristically worthwhile, it was not in itself sufficient to mitigate the on-going global loss of ecosystems and habitats and species (Westman, 1977). Practical and implemented management responses were key requirements if the rate and extent of environmental change was to be moderated.

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