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What can nature do for us?

The benefits that we gain from a healthy environment - food and clean water, for example - are called ‘ecosystem services’. Reducing biodiversity can threaten these services. Placing a more clearly-defined value on ecosystem services may help us protect them better.



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Earlier comments:

Thoughts on valuing ecosystem services

Posted by Iridium at Apr 21, 2010 12:14 PM
I can see that on one level placing a value on ecosystems - on the basis of the services they provide to us - is a useful approach. I am sure it can help us to more readily appreciate the worth of natural resources and hopefully encourage us to protect them better. The trouble is, it is a very human-centred approach. We may place a low value on one kind of ecosystem because we can't see any way in which it really supports human economies or our health and wellbeing, other than as land to build on. We may then not spend much effort or money to protect this ecosystem type. However, this type of ecosystem may be vital for some other species clinging to survival.

Similarly, we may identify that a particularly valued ecosystem service is provided by a certain group of organisms and set of environmental conditions. We may then 'engineer' this so that the ecosystem service is enhanced. OK, so we've protected the ecosystem, but at what expense? We've already done this on a huge scale by turning large tracts of land into productive agricultural land. What if we start 'gardening' other ecosystems, which we've traditionally ignored, under the legitimate banner of 'protecting ecosystem services'? I think we have to be careful not to over-apply this approach, and in so doing lose sight of the fact that other species needs must also be considered.

More Economic Cases!

Posted by Alexander M at May 04, 2010 06:48 PM
I believe we need to do MORE to make the link between nature, humans and the economic value. The economic case is the one which (pardon the punn) has the most currency with policy makers and a voting public (see not only flood control from trees, but the value of saltmarsh to attenuate the force of the sea in place of sea walls). The problem is that an ecosystem approach is too narrow focussed. For example, more needs to be made of the economic value provided by bees to fertilize crops which leads to the economic case for protecting what bees need in order to survive - healthy environments etc.
Let us not forget that we protect nature and biodiversity for ourselves - either to survive or to enjoy. There is hardly any altruism from the "best" of us. We - as a human race - seem so extremely uninclined to preserve the human race, and fail to realise the best way to achieve this would be to better protect the nature that surrounds us.

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