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1.3.3 Is ecosystem services valuation all about money?

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There is an ongoing debate about the moral and ethical implications of putting a price on nature. Despite this, monetary valuation has so far been the most commonly used form of ecosystem service valuation in environmental management.

Most obviously value can be measured in monetary terms. Putting a price on the benefits we get from nature can help when making trade-offs between ecosystems and economic development.

For example, such as weighing up whether the economic benefits that result from the construction of a ferry port in terms of job creation and increased tourism are worth more than the accompanying loss of coastal margins may lead to reduced bird habitats, natural flood defence capacity, carbon sequestration, and loss of the waste degradation function that salt marshes provide.

This is because money often plays a central role in political and management decision making but also because these economic methods have been around for a couple of decades.

1 3 3  Valuation Costanza

Figure: Global map of the value of ecosystem services from Costanza et al. [1997Resource]

Monetary approaches have clear limitations when it comes to capturing the more intangible societal and cultural benefits of ecosystems.

Non-monetary valuation of ecosystem services, on the other hand, is a fairly new concept. The research and management community is still trying to work out how to quantify and measure the well-being value of an open horizon sea view, the societal value of rock pooling or the cultural value of surfing.

This kind of information will become increasingly relevant as policy makers and managers begin to recognise the importance of taking into consideration non-monetary societal benefits in their policies and management decisions. These benefits include, for example, improved mental and physical health from spending time at the seaside.

"Marine Ecosystem Services: How Is That Valuation Thing Treating You?"
--Linwood Pendleton

[ Find out more about the debate around the concept of ecosystem services and monetary valuation ]

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