Magazine article USA TODAY

Finding a Market for "Ecosystem Services"

Magazine article USA TODAY

Finding a Market for "Ecosystem Services"

Article excerpt

How much money is an ecosystem worth? It's easy to put a price tag on timber harvested from forests or copper mined from the ground, but can we put an economic value on the less-tangible services ecosystems provide, such as water purification and flood control?

A group of 30 scientists, lawyers, conservationists, economists, and policymakers recently came together at Stanford (Calif.) University to discuss novel ways to market "ecosystem services" with the ultimate goal of protecting the ecosystem itself. "The importance of ecosystem services has been recognized since the time of Plato," noted Jim Salzman, an environmental law professor at American University, Washington, D.C., explaining that they are the processes through which natural systems support human life by purifying air and water, detoxifying and decomposing waste, renewing soil fertility, regulating climate, preventing droughts and floods, controlling pests, and and the pollination of plants.

Unfortunately for the environment, most people take these services for granted because they are free. "We explicitly value and place dollar figures on `ecosystem goods' such as timber and fish, but the services underpinning these goods almost without exception have no market value--not because they are worthless, but, rather, because there is no market to capture and express their value directly"

Watersheds may be among the most marketable of all ecosystems, because they provide essential services such as water purification and flood control. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.