Putting a Price On the Priceless: Monetary Valuations of Ecosystem Services
The IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) defines ecosystem services as the benefits people obtain from ecosystems, such as food, water, medicine, and recreation, as well as the non-material benefits that people derive from ecosystems, such as cultural, spiritual, and aesthetic values. The “four types of ecosystem services” that form the foundation of the IPBES methodology for evaluating biodiversity and ecosystem services are:
Provisioning services: People obtain material benefits from ecosystems, such as food, water, medicine, and fuel.
Regulating services: These are the benefits that ecosystems provide in regulating natural processes, such as climate regulation, water purification, and pest control.
Supporting services: These are the benefits that ecosystems provide in maintaining the conditions for life on Earth, such as nutrient cycling, soil formation, and seed dispersal.
Cultural services: These are the non-material benefits that people derive from ecosystems, such as recreation, spiritual and aesthetic values, cultural heritage, and education.
While ecosystems are fundamental to our physical and spiritual being and, therefore, invaluable, the IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services 2019 included a section on the valuation of ecosystem services. The report estimates the economic value of a range of ecosystem services, including provisioning services (such as food, water, and medicine), regulating services (such as climate regulation and pollination), cultural services (such as recreation and spiritual and religious values), and supporting services (such as nutrient cycling and seed dispersal). The report used various methods to estimate the economic value of ecosystem services:
Benefit Transfer: Benefit transfer is a method that estimates the value of an ecosystem service by comparing it to similar services in other locations. Benefit transfer is the projection of benefits from one location and time to another, either at the exact location or to a new place. Thus, benefit transfer comprises adapting an original study to a new policy application at the same site or adapting to a…