Economic Valuation of Ecosystem Goods and Services

Providing the knowledge required for policy-makers to incorporate ecosystem goods and services valuation results into land-use decision making in the Amazon Rainforest

Interviewing local families about the costs and benefits derived from the forest-based activities they undertake (Photo: Juan Carlos Huayllapuma)
Interviewing local families about the costs and benefits derived from the forest-based activities they undertake (Photo: Juan Carlos Huayllapuma)
Interviewing local families about the costs and benefits derived from the forest-based activities they undertake (Photo: Juan Carlos Huayllapuma)

It is generally understood that humans benefit from wild nature, via the provision of ecosystem goods and services such as harvestable species used for food, fuel, and fibre; climate regulation; nutrient cycling; pollution control, and so forth. These benefits should provide strong incentives to conserve nature, however a lack of quality information on the economic value of these goods and services, and their rate of provision, means that they are frequently overlooked or downplayed when it comes to making important decisions regards retaining or converting wild habitats (e.g. rainforest), especially when short-term private economic gains (i.e. profits) from conversion are at stake. Although it may be difficult or sometimes impossible for certain ecosystem goods and services to be marketed, and thus will lack a price signal for comparable valuation with competing man-made goods and services, it is necessary to furnish decision-makers in government and civil society with reliable estimates of the value of ecosystem goods and services, so that they can be properly considered.

Our objectives are to understand the rate of provision of key ecosystem goods and services associated with rainforests, including studies of ecosystem processes, with the aim of providing better information on the marginal value of the flow of environmental goods and services, and also to provide decision makers with total valuation estimates for certain geographical areas and comparative data on the value of total or partial conversion of these areas.  We also aim to highlight the negative impacts of perverse incentives resulting from existing legislation, which act to artificially increase the economic value of habitat conversion.

We have already begun by understanding the value of intact forest for ecotourism development, from a private and social cost-benefit perspective, though more work on this theme is required. We are also focused on understanding the rate of provision of non-timber forest products in forests under different management regimes, such as bush meat, Brazil nuts, as well as services such as pollination, carbon storage and sequestration, and nutrient cycling.

Our Projects