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The ecological economics of land degradation: Impacts on ecosystem service values


  • Sutton, Paul C.
  • Anderson, Sharolyn J.
  • Costanza, Robert
  • Kubiszewski, Ida


We use two datasets to characterize impacts on ecosystem services. The first is a spatially explicit measure of the impact of human consumption or ‘demand’ on ecosystem services as measured by the human appropriation of net primary productivity (HANPP) derived from population distributions and aggregate national statistics. The second is an actual measure of loss of productivity or a proxy measure of ‘supply’ of ecosystem services derived from biophysical models, agricultural census data, and other empirical measures. This proxy measure of land degradation is the ratio of actual NPP to potential NPP. The HANPP dataset suggests that current ‘demand’ for NPP exceeds ‘supply’ at a corresponding ecosystem service value of $10.5 trillion per year. The land degradation measure suggests that we have lost $6.3 trillion per year of ecosystem service value to impaired ecosystem function. Agriculture amounts to 2.8% of global GDP. With global GDP standing at $63 trillion in 2010, all of agriculture represents $1.7 Trillion of the world's GDP. Our estimate of lost ecosystem services represent a significantly larger fraction (~10%) of global GDP. This is one reason the economics of land degradation is about a lot more than the market value of agricultural products alone.

Suggested Citation

  • Sutton, Paul C. & Anderson, Sharolyn J. & Costanza, Robert & Kubiszewski, Ida, 2016. "The ecological economics of land degradation: Impacts on ecosystem service values," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 129(C), pages 182-192.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:129:y:2016:i:c:p:182-192
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2016.06.016

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Partha Dasgupta, 2008. "Nature in Economics," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 39(1), pages 1-7, January.
    2. Farley, Joshua & Costanza, Robert, 2002. "Envisioning shared goals for humanity: a detailed, shared vision of a sustainable and desirable USA in 2100," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(2-3), pages 245-259, December.
    3. Turner, Katrine Grace & Anderson, Sharolyn & Gonzales-Chang, Mauricio & Costanza, Robert & Courville, Sasha & Dalgaard, Tommy & Dominati, Estelle & Kubiszewski, Ida & Ogilvy, Sue & Porfirio, Luciana &, 2016. "A review of methods, data, and models to assess changes in the value of ecosystem services from land degradation and restoration," Ecological Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 319(C), pages 190-207.
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    Cited by:

    1. Kubiszewski, Ida & Jarvis, Diane & Zakariyya, Nabeeh, 2019. "Spatial variations in contributors to life satisfaction: An Australian case study," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 164(C), pages 1-1.
    2. Gashaw, Temesgen & Tulu, Taffa & Argaw, Mekuria & Worqlul, Abeyou W. & Tolessa, Terefe & Kindu, Mengistie, 2018. "Estimating the impacts of land use/land cover changes on Ecosystem Service Values: The case of the Andassa watershed in the Upper Blue Nile basin of Ethiopia," Ecosystem Services, Elsevier, vol. 31(PA), pages 219-228.
    3. Yamaguchi, Rintaro, 2020. "Available capital, utilized capital, and shadow prices in inclusive wealth accounting," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 169(C).
    4. Watson, Keri B. & Galford, Gillian L. & Sonter, Laura J. & Ricketts, Taylor H., 2020. "Conserving ecosystem services and biodiversity: Measuring the tradeoffs involved in splitting conservation budgets," Ecosystem Services, Elsevier, vol. 42(C).
    5. Jing Ning & Jianjun Jin & Foyuan Kuang & Xinyu Wan & Chenyang Zhang & Tong Guan, 2019. "The Valuation of Grassland Ecosystem Services in Inner Mongolia of China and Its Spatial Differences," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(24), pages 1-14, December.
    6. Gasmi, Farid & Couvet, Denis & Recuero Virto, Laura, 2019. "The impact of renewable versus non-renewable natural capital on economic growth," TSE Working Papers 19-1058, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
    7. Fei, Li & Shuwen, Zhang & Jiuchun, Yang & Liping, Chang & Haijuan, Yang & Kun, Bu, 2018. "Effects of land use change on ecosystem services value in West Jilin since the reform and opening of China," Ecosystem Services, Elsevier, vol. 31(PA), pages 12-20.
    8. Sandhu, Harpinder & Clarke, Beverley & Baring, Ryan & Anderson, Sharolyn & Fisk, Claire & Dittmann, Sabine & Walker, Stewart & Sutton, Paul & Kubiszewski, Ida & Costanza, Robert, 2018. "Scenario planning including ecosystem services for a coastal region in South Australia," Ecosystem Services, Elsevier, vol. 31(PA), pages 194-207.
    9. Campos, Pablo & Oviedo, José L. & à lvarez, Alejandro & Mesa, Bruno & Caparrós, Alejandro, 2019. "The role of non-commercial intermediate services in the valuations of ecosystem services: Application to cork oak farms in Andalusia, Spain," Ecosystem Services, Elsevier, vol. 39(C).
    10. Paul C. Sutton & Sophia L. Duncan & Sharolyn J. Anderson, 2019. "Valuing Our National Parks: An Ecological Economics Perspective," Land, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(4), pages 1-17, March.
    11. Zhonglin Tang & Geng Sun & Nannan Zhang & Jing He & Ning Wu, 2018. "Impacts of Land-Use and Climate Change on Ecosystem Service in Eastern Tibetan Plateau, China," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 10(2), pages 1-19, February.
    12. Bryan, Brett A. & Ye, Yanqiong & Zhang, Jia'en & Connor, Jeffery D., 2018. "Land-use change impacts on ecosystem services value: Incorporating the scarcity effects of supply and demand dynamics," Ecosystem Services, Elsevier, vol. 32(PA), pages 144-157.
    13. Jie Guo & Tianqi Zhu & Minghao Ou & Fengsong Pei & Xiaoyu Gan & Weixin Ou & Yu Tao, 2018. "A Framework of Payment for Ecosystem Services to Protect Cropland: A Case Study of the Yangtze River Delta in China," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 10(1), pages 1-18, January.
    14. Hamdi A. Zurqani & Elena A. Mikhailova & Christopher J. Post & Mark A. Schlautman & Azzeddin R. Elhawej, 2019. "A Review of Libyan Soil Databases for Use within an Ecosystem Services Framework," Land, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(5), pages 1-30, May.
    15. Gianluca Egidi & Luca Salvati & Pavel Cudlin & Rosanna Salvia & Manuela Romagnoli, 2020. "A New ‘Lexicon’ of Land Degradation: Toward a Holistic Thinking for Complex Socioeconomic Issues," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 12(10), pages 1-19, May.
    16. Kubiszewski, Ida & Costanza, Robert & Anderson, Sharolyn & Sutton, Paul, 2017. "The future value of ecosystem services: Global scenarios and national implications," Ecosystem Services, Elsevier, vol. 26(PA), pages 289-301.
    17. Fangfang Xun & Yecui Hu & Ling Lv & Jinhui Tong, 2017. "Farmers’ Awareness of Ecosystem Services and the Associated Policy Implications," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 9(9), pages 1-13, September.
    18. Tian Dong & Weihua Xu & Hua Zheng & Yang Xiao & Lingqiao Kong & Zhiyun Ouyang, 2018. "A Framework for Regional Ecological Risk Warning Based on Ecosystem Service Approach: A Case Study in Ganzi, China," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 10(8), pages 1-13, August.


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