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The quantification and valuation of ecosystem services

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  • Sagoff, Mark
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    This paper explores differences between economic and ecological criteria for identifying, measuring, and evaluating ecosystem services. It argues that economic stakeholders (user groups) generally do well in identifying these services and assigning prices to them. These prices arise spontaneously in--and serve to coordinate--market activity related to the environment. The relevant ecological information which markets gather and apply tends to be dispersed, contingent, particular, local, transitory, and embedded in institutions and practices. Ecologists and other scientists, in contrast, often seek to understand how ecosystems work and which populations and processes provide ecosystem services. The knowledge science seeks, unlike the information markets gather, tends to be centralized, collaborative, collective, and consensus-based; science pursues concepts and principles that are timeless and general rather than ephemeral and site-specific. The paper contrasts the dispersed and decentralized information organized by markets with the collective and centralized knowledge characteristic of science. The paper argues that the conceptual distance between market-based and science-based methods of assembling information and applying knowledge defeats efforts to determine the "value" of ecosystem services in any integrated sense.

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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Ecological Economics.

    Volume (Year): 70 (2011)
    Issue (Month): 3 (January)
    Pages: 497-502

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:70:y:2011:i:3:p:497-502
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    1. John O'Neill, 2004. "Ecological economics and the politics of knowledge: the debate between Hayek and Neurath," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 28(3), pages 431-447, May.
    2. Boyd, James & Banzhaf, Spencer, 2007. "What are ecosystem services? The need for standardized environmental accounting units," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(2-3), pages 616-626, August.
    3. Polasky, Stephen, 2008. "What's Nature Done for You Lately: Measuring the Value of Ecosystem Services," Choices, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 23(2).
    4. Fisher, Brendan & Turner, R. Kerry & Morling, Paul, 2009. "Defining and classifying ecosystem services for decision making," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(3), pages 643-653, January.
    5. Kontogianni, Areti & Luck, Gary W. & Skourtos, Michalis, 2010. "Valuing ecosystem services on the basis of service-providing units: A potential approach to address the 'endpoint problem' and improve stated preference methods," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(7), pages 1479-1487, May.
    6. O'Neill, John, 2006. "Knowledge, Planning, And Markets: A Missing Chapter In The Socialist Calculation Debates," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 22(01), pages 55-78, March.
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