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The quantification and valuation of ecosystem services


  • Sagoff, Mark


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Sagoff, Mark, 2011. "The quantification and valuation of ecosystem services," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(3), pages 497-502, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:70:y:2011:i:3:p:497-502

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. 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).
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:ecoser:v:7:y:2014:i:c:p:98-105 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Jean-Michel Salles, 2011. "Valuing biodiversity and ecosystem services: why linking economic values with Nature?," Working Papers 11-24, LAMETA, Universitiy of Montpellier, revised Dec 2011.
    3. repec:eee:ecoser:v:18:y:2016:i:c:p:87-99 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. repec:eee:ecoser:v:4:y:2013:i:c:p:25-32 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Zareena Begum Irfan,, Jayakumar S and Satarupa & Venkatachalam. L & Jayakumar S & Satarupa Rakshit, 2017. "Evaluation Index System (Eis) For The Ecological- Economic- Social Performances Of Ousteri Wetland Across Puducherry And Tamil Nadu," Working Papers 2017-155, Madras School of Economics,Chennai,India.
    6. Wolfson, Dirk J., 2014. "Who gets what in environmental policy?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 8-14.
    7. repec:eee:ecomod:v:222:y:2011:i:16:p:2924-2928 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Sandhu, Harpinder S. & Crossman, Neville D. & Smith, F. Patrick, 2012. "Ecosystem services and Australian agricultural enterprises," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 74(C), pages 19-26.
    9. Polishchuk, Yuliana & Rauschmayer, Felix, 2011. "Ecosystem effects on well-being: More than just "benefits"? Looking at ecosystem services through the capability approach," UFZ Discussion Papers 6/2011, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), Division of Social Sciences (ÖKUS).
    10. Melathopoulos, Andony P. & Stoner, Alexander M., 2015. "Critique and transformation: On the hypothetical nature of ecosystem service value and its neo-Marxist, liberal and pragmatist criticisms," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 173-181.
    11. repec:eee:ecoser:v:16:y:2015:i:c:p:158-166 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. repec:eee:ecomod:v:295:y:2015:i:c:p:216-226 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. repec:eee:ecoser:v:16:y:2015:i:c:p:174-181 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. repec:eee:ecoser:v:3:y:2013:i:c:p:e22-e31 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Longhitano, Davide, 2012. "La Valutazione dei Servizi Ecosistemici. Proposta per un Approccio Termoeconomico," Congress Papers 124123, Italian Association of Agricultural and Applied Economics (AIEAA).
    16. de Oliveira, Luiz Eduardo Chimello & Berkes, Fikret, 2014. "What value São Pedro's procession? Ecosystem services from local people's perceptions," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 107(C), pages 114-121.
    17. repec:eee:ecoser:v:22:y:2016:i:pb:p:289-296 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. Qi Fu & Bo Li & Linlin Yang & Zhilong Wu & Xinshi Zhang, 2015. "Ecosystem Services Evaluation and Its Spatial Characteristics in Central Asia’s Arid Regions: A Case Study in Altay Prefecture, China," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 7(7), pages 1-19, June.
    19. Melathopoulos, Andony P. & Cutler, G. Christopher & Tyedmers, Peter, 2015. "Where is the value in valuing pollination ecosystem services to agriculture?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 109(C), pages 59-70.
    20. repec:eee:ecoser:v:1:y:2012:i:1:p:85-92 is not listed on IDEAS
    21. Murray A. Rudd, 2015. "Awareness of Humanities, Arts and Social Science (HASS) Research Is Related to Patterns of Citizens’ Community and Cultural Engagement," Social Sciences, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 4(2), pages 1-26, April.
    22. Spangenberg, Joachim H. & von Haaren, Christina & Settele, Josef, 2014. "The ecosystem service cascade: Further developing the metaphor. Integrating societal processes to accommodate social processes and planning, and the case of bioenergy," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 104(C), pages 22-32.
    23. Polishchuk, Yuliana & Rauschmayer, Felix, 2012. "Beyond “benefits”? Looking at ecosystem services through the capability approach," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(C), pages 103-111.
    24. Hayashi, Takashi & Takahashi, Yoshifumi, 2015. "Market internalized value of bio-friendly agriculture: An evaluation of impact of stork-friendly rice production on a local economy," 2015 Conference, August 9-14, 2015, Milan, Italy 211715, International Association of Agricultural Economists.


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