Abstract: The economic valuation of ecosystem services is a key policy tool in stemming losses of biological diversity. It is proposed that the loss of ecosystem function and the biological resources within ecosystems is due in part to the failure of markets to recognize the benefits humans derive from ecosystems. Placing monetary values on ecosystem services is often suggested as a necessary step in correcting such market failures. We consider the effects of valuing different types of ecosystem services within an economic framework. We argue that provisioning and regulating ecosystem services are generally produced and consumed in ways that make them amenable to economic valuation. The values associated with cultural ecosystem services lie outside the domain of economic valuation, but their worth may be expressed through noneconomic, deliberative forms of valuation. We argue that supporting ecosystem services are not of direct value and that the losses of such services can be expressed in terms of the effects of their loss on the risk to the provision of the directly valued ecosystem services they support. We propose a heuristic framework that considers the relations between ecological risks and returns in the provision of ecosystem services. The proposed ecosystem-service valuation framework, which allows the expression of the value of all types of ecosystem services, calls for a shift from static, purely monetary valuation toward the consideration of trade-offs between the current flow of benefits from ecosystems and the ability of those ecosystems to provide future flows.
Conservation Biology, 2011, Vol 25, Issue 2, p. 250-258