Personal views on politics, education and the environment from a Deep South perspective. Dave Kennedy
Sunday, July 31, 2011
Valuing our Ecosystem Services
The Royal Society of New Zealand has highlighted the importance of natural ecosystems as providers of services that benefit human wellbeing and suggest these need to be included in economic decision making. For Green supporters this is not a revolutionary idea but the Royal Society has articulated the concept well:
"The natural economy provides us with many natural ‘goods and services’, but most are not considered in economic valuations, says a new paper released by the Royal Society of New Zealand.
In its “Ecosystem Services” paper the Royal Society describes how ecosystem services or processes benefit human wellbeing and the need to include these in economic decision-making. It says when these ecosystem services are not recognised in the marketplace, it leads to decision-making failures.
Examples of ecosystems services are forests reducing soil erosion, shellfish filtering water pollution, unfarmed areas improving natural pest control on nearby farmland, and ecosystems providing recreation and cultural value."
My concern at our monocultural farming practices and the dangerous loss of biodiversity is covered well in the supporting paper:
The complex relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem services
Biodiversity is often valued for providing resilience to environmental change. More biodiversity generally leads to more resilience, but the relationship is rarely simple. Ecosystem functions, such as nutrient regula- tion, are provided by the traits of organisms within that ecosystem. Greater genetic diversity provides a greater reservoir of traits that can replace traits lost if particularly important species are lost. More diversity also provides more opportunity for functions to oper- ate across a broader range of conditions. In this way, biodiversity provides the insurance value that future environmental changes will not reduce services.
Biodiversity itself provides existence value and option value (in this case, the value of preserving the benefits of unknown future uses of currently-unused species and the opportunity for current use of those species).
The past fifty years have seen a “substantial and largely irreversible loss” of biodiversity. New Zealand’s unique endemic biodiversity has similarly seen serious decline—an unknown but large loss of com- mon wealth and natural heritage.
The Society is organising a workshop on August 9 to explore how to implement ecosystem services thinking in a policy context and I think it deserves support.