Valuing Cultural Ecosystem Services

Abstract: Ecosystem services can be described as the benefits that society gains from the natural environment which are then often grouped into four categories; supporting, provisioning, regulating and cultural services1. With the objective of slowing biodiversity loss while increasing agricultural productivity to meet growing demands, recent research has aimed to incorporate this framework into practical strategy and decision making2,3. However, this is made easier by economic valuation of services to enable ranking of importance of certain services allowing prioritization given the limited resources available to rectify the global issues4. Unfortunately intangible, cultural services are problematic when assigning worth as value is subjective, based on personal, religious or bequest values and hence are often regarded as externalities to the other services5,6. Here I show the range of issues regarding cultural service valuation and explore possible means to improve accuracy and validity of results for future policy.

millennium eco

Title: What are the key difficulties in the quantification of cultural value of ecosystem services and hence, to what extent should this have over wider decision making?

My partner and I were given the very broad topic of: ‘The use of ecosystem services frameworks for effective land-use decision making’ to produce a poster of key information and case studies, then narrow down an individual essay title. I am very interested in the potential benefits we might gain from quantitatively analysing the economic valuation of natural resources to highlight biodiversity loss to the wider non-scientific population, whilst addressing the trade-offs of such evaluation. Once economic value is known, prioritisation when decision and policy-making is more efficient, however this may also instigate further exploitation and habitat loss, especially in developing countries, where the potential value of natural assets was not previously known.

In the essay I evaluate such issues in the context of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Framework (2005) and key recent meta-analyses regarding cultural services. I then assess this evaluation regarding the need to drive informed policy and decision-making based on unbroken scientific research rather than political compromise for a fair and sustainable outcome.

Let me know if you want any more info, or a read of the text 🙂

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