Ann E. Ferris, Richard Garbaccio, Alex Marten, and Ann Wolverton
Concern regarding the economic impacts of environmental regulations has been part of the public dialogue since the beginning of the U.S. EPA. Even as large improvements in environmental quality occurred, government and academia began to examine the potential consequences of regulation for economic growth and productivity. In general, early studies found measurable but not severe effects on the overall national economy. Although price increases due to regulatory requirements outweighed the stimulative effect of investments in pollution abatement, they nearly offset one another. However, these studies also highlighted potentially substantial effects on local labor markets due to the regional and industry concentration of plant closures.
More recently, a substantial body of work examined industry-specific effects of environmental regulation on the productivity of pollution-intensive firms most likely to face pollution control costs, as well as on plant location and employment decisions within firms. Most econometric-based studies found relatively small or no effect on sector-specific productivity and employment, though firms were less likely to open plants in locations subject to more stringent regulation compared to other U.S. locations. In contrast, studies that used economy-wide models to explicitly account for sectoral linkages and intertemporal effects found substantial sector-specific effects due to environmental regulation, including in sectors that were not directly regulated.
It is also possible to think about the overall impacts of environmental regulation on the economy through the lens of benefit-cost analysis. While this type of approach does not speak to how the costs of regulation are distributed across sectors, it has the advantage of explicitly weighing the benefits of environmental improvements against their costs. If benefits are greater than costs, then overall social welfare is improved. When conducting such exercises, it is important to anticipate the ways in which improvements in environmental quality may either directly improve the productivity of economic factors—such as through the increased productivity of outdoor workers—or change the composition of the economy as firms and households change their behavior. If individuals are healthier, for example, they may choose to reallocate their time between work and leisure. Although introducing a role for pollution in production and household behavior can be challenging, studies that have partially accounted for this interconnection have found substantial impacts of improvements in environmental quality on the overall economy.
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Environmental Science. Please check back later for the full article.
Input-Output (I-O) models were originally conceived by the Nobel Prize winner Wassily Leontief in the 1930s as a tool that can be used by economists and economic policy makers to help in their decision process. The I-O models provide a “picture” of the how the economy works, that is, what are the necessities to produce goods and services; how this production generates income, profits and taxes; and how this income is spent. In a simplified way the I-O models can be seen as the model implementation of the economy’s circular flow diagrams usually show in the introductory courses of economics.
Taking, for example, the production of computer screens:
• On the production side, the I-O models have information for the following: (a) how much is spent on the inputs, goods and services, necessary to produce the screens; (b) if these inputs have their origin from the domestic market or were imported; (c) how much was paid in tax to the government; (d) what was the total amount paid in wages and salaries; (e) what were the profits of the producing firms; (f) how many computer screens are sold in the domestic market or in the international market (exported); and (g) if they are sold directly to the final consumer or if they are used as a production input, being incorporated in other goods, for example, like a refrigerator with a computer screen.
• On the demand side, the I-O models, taking into consideration the total income received by the different players in the economy, that is, households, firms, and government, have information about the following: (a) how the income of these players is spent on goods and services, and if they are used for consumption or investment; (b) if these goods and services were produced domestically or abroad (imported); and (c) how much consumer tax was paid.
From the above structure of the I-O models, and using economic mathematical models, it is possible to measure the direct and indirect inputs needed to produce goods and services in the economy, for example, to produce a car, one does not see the need for agricultural goods as a direct input for production, but the fabric used in the car seats or on the car carpets could have come from cotton, which is an agricultural good; as so, cotton is an indirect input used in car production.
The I-O models, by their capability to show a complete picture of the economic system, and of tracing the origin of direct and indirect inputs used in the production process, can be used in environmental studies by linking economic and environmental variables, on the production and consumption sides. From the production side, it is possible to measure, by considering the direct and indirect inputs used, how many natural resources were used and how much pollution was generated on the production of goods and services. On the demand side, it is possible to measure the environmental variables, natural resource, and pollution embodied in the goods and services consumed in the economy. Expanding the I-O models to a global scale, that is, using Inter-Country I-O models, it is possible to measure the environment impacts and contents of the goods and services by countries of the origin of production and by countries of consumption.
Maria A. Cunha-e-Sá and Sofia F. Franco
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Environmental Science. Please check back later for the full article.
Economic development, technological change, and urbanization are typically identified as important drivers of land use change. Yet, land use change entails important environmental and socioeconomic consequences, namely by affecting the processes and functions of ecosystems, and, therefore, the provision of their services.
Urbanization comprises residential, commercial, industrial, and highway-related development. At the edge of this built environment is the urban-wildland interface (UWI), which has been the focus of environmental policies in several parts of the world. The reason rests on the fact that urban development at the UWI is linked to significant environmental damages, including air and water pollution, habitat destruction, landscape fragmentation, increased runoff, and wildfire risk, among others. These effects can reduce biological diversity and, furthermore, some of the ecosystem services (ES) can be irreversibly lost.
Though forests located nearby urban areas are a small fraction of the forest cover, a better understanding of the extent to which UWI forest conversion affects local economies and environmental services can help policymakers harmonizing urban development and environmental preservation at the UWI, with positive impact on the welfare of local communities.
The main income from most forest holdings at the UWI depends on wood production. However, forests and forestry practices also contribute to climate change mitigation. Yet, the public good nature of most forest ES distorts the forest market price below its social value. As a result, as development pressure increases, it is expected that interface traditional timber management practices become a transitional use as conversion to other valuable land use, such as residential use, occurs in the future and, the UWI open space is undervalued. This, in turn, raises concern given the current increasing trend of forestland conversion at the UWI.
Moreover, the value of developable land held by a private forest owner derives both from the returns from the current use (timber production) and from the expected returns from future urban uses. Given that the decision to convert is conditional on the relative magnitude and timing of the returns of the two alternative uses, decision-making at the UWI must reflect the factors that influence both, that is, urban (e.g., residential rents and switching costs) and forestry-related factors (e.g., stumpage prices and regeneration costs), when considering the optimal rotation periods and conversion dates. Accounting for the urban influences on UWI forestland practices is thus very important, because a growing population and increasingly land consumptive development patterns will require more effective policies and programs to stem the tide of urban sprawl seen in several municipalities worldwide.
Christopher Fleming and Christopher Ambrey
The method and practice of placing monetary values on environmental goods and services for which a conventional market price is otherwise unobservable is one of the most fertile areas of research in the field of natural resource and environmental economics. Initially motivated by the need to include environmental values in benefit-cost analysis, practitioners of non-market valuation have since found further motivation in national account augmentation and environmental damage litigation. Despite hundreds of applications and many decades of refinement, shortcomings in all of the techniques remain, and no single technique is considered superior to the others in all respects. Thus, techniques that expand the suite of options available to the non-market valuation practitioner have the potential to represent a genuine contribution to the field.
One technique to recently emerge from the economics of happiness literature is the “experienced preference method” or “life satisfaction approach.” Simply, this approach entails the inclusion of non-market goods as explanatory variables within micro-econometric functions of life satisfaction along with income and other covariates. The estimated coefficient for the non-market good yields, first, a direct valuation in terms of life satisfaction and, second, when compared to the estimated coefficient for income, the implicit willingness to pay for the non-market good in monetary terms.
The life satisfaction approach offers several advantages over more conventional non-market valuation techniques. For example, the approach does not ask individuals to directly value the non-market good in question, as is the case in contingent valuation. Nor does it ask individuals to make explicit trade-offs between market and non-market goods, as is the case in discrete choice modeling. The life satisfaction approach nonetheless has some potential limitations. Crucially, self-reported life satisfaction must be regarded as a good proxy for an individual’s utility. Furthermore, in order to yield reliable non-market valuation estimates, self-reported life satisfaction measures must: (1) contain information on respondents’ global evaluation of their life; (2) reflect not only stable inner states of respondents, but also current affects; (3) refer to respondents’ present life; and (4) be comparable across groups of individuals under different circumstances. Despite these conditions, there is growing evidence to support the suitability of individual’s responses to life satisfaction questions for non-market valuation. Applications of the life satisfaction approach to the valuation of environmental goods and services to date include the valuation of air quality, airport noise, greenspace, scenic amenity, floods, and drought.
Leslie Richardson and Bruce Peacock
Economics plays an important role not only in the management of national parks in developed countries, but also in demonstrating the contribution of these areas to societal well-being. The beneficial effect of park tourism on jobs and economic activity in communities near these protected areas has at times been a factor in their establishment. These economic impacts continue to be highlighted as a way to demonstrate the benefit and return on investment of national parks to local economies. However, the economic values supported by national parks extend far beyond local economic benefits. Parks provide unique recreation opportunities, health benefits, preservation of wildlife and habitat, and a wide range of ecosystem services that the public assigns an economic value to. In addition, value is derived from the existence of national parks and their preservation for future generations. These nonmarket benefits can be difficult to quantify, but they are essential for understanding and communicating the economic importance of parks. Economic methods used to estimate these values have been refined and tested for nearly seven decades, and they have come a long way in helping to elucidate the extent of the nonmarket benefits of protected areas.
In many developed countries, national parks have regulations and policies that outline a framework for the consideration of economic values in decision-making contexts. For instance, large oil spills in the United States, such as the Exxon Valdez spill of 1989 and the Deepwater Horizon spill of 2010, highlighted the need to better understand public values for affected park resources, leading to the extensive use of nonmarket values in natural resource damage assessments. Of course, rules and enforcement issues vary widely across countries, and the potential for economics to inform the day-to-day operations of national parks is much broader than what is currently outlined in such policies. While economics is only one piece of the puzzle in managing national parks, it provides a valuable tool for evaluating resource tradeoffs and for incorporating public preferences into the decision-making process, leading to greater transparency and assurance that national parks are managed for the benefit of society. Understanding the full extent of the economic benefits supported by national parks helps to further the mission of these protected areas in developed countries.
Natasha James and Erin Sills
Payments for ecosystem or environmental services (PES) are broadly defined as payments (in kind or in cash) to participants (often landowners) who volunteer to provide the services either to a specific user or to society at large. Payments are typically conditional on agreed rules of natural resource management rather than on delivery of the services. The rules range from protection of native ecosystems to installation of conservation practices. The earliest proponents of PES were economists who argued that they are a cost-effective way to conserve forests, manage watersheds, and protect biodiversity. Political support for PES rests on the claim that these programs can alleviate poverty among participants as well as protect the environment. More recent literature and experience with PES reveals barriers to achieving cost-effectiveness and poverty alleviation, including many related to the distribution of participation. The Costa Rican experience illustrates the choices that must be made and the potential for innovation in the design of PES programs.
Alfons Weersink and David Pannell
The production of food, fiber, and fuel often results in negative externalities due to impacts on soil, water, air, or habitat. There are two broad ways to incentivize farmers to alter their land use or management practices on that land to benefit the environment: (1) provide payments to farmers who adopt environmentally beneficial actions and (2) introduce direct controls or regulations that require farmers to undertake certain actions, backed up with penalties for noncompliance. Both the provision of payments for environmentally beneficial management practices (BMPs) and a regulatory requirement for use of a BMP alter the incentives faced by farmers, but they do so in different ways, with different implications and consequences for farmers, for the policy, for politics, and consequently for the environment. These two incentive-based mechanisms are recommended where the private incentives conflict with the public interest, and only where the private incentives are not so strong as to outweigh the public benefits. The biggest differences between them probably relate to equity/distributional outcomes and politics rather than efficiency. Governments often seem to prefer to employ beneficiary-pays mechanisms in cases where they seek to alter farmers’ existing practices, and polluter-pays mechanisms when they seek to prevent farmers from changing from their current practices to something worse for the environment. The digital revolution has the potential to help farmers produce more food on less land and with fewer inputs. In addition to reducing input levels and identifying unprofitable management zones to set aside, the technology could also alter the transaction costs of the policy options.
James B. London
Coastal zone management (CZM) has evolved since the enactment of the U.S. Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, which was the first comprehensive program of its type. The newer iteration of Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM), as applied to the European Union (2000, 2002), establishes priorities and a comprehensive strategy framework. While coastal management was established in large part to address issues of both development and resource protection in the coastal zone, conditions have changed. Accelerated rates of sea level rise (SLR) as well as continued rapid development along the coasts have increased vulnerability. The article examines changing conditions over time and the role of CZM and ICZM in addressing increased climate related vulnerabilities along the coast.
The article argues that effective adaptation strategies will require a sound information base and an institutional framework that appropriately addresses the risk of development in the coastal zone. The information base has improved through recent advances in technology and geospatial data quality. Critical for decision-makers will be sound information to identify vulnerabilities, formulate options, and assess the viability of a set of adaptation alternatives. The institutional framework must include the political will to act decisively and send the right signals to encourage responsible development patterns. At the same time, as communities are likely to bear higher costs for adaptation, it is important that they are given appropriate tools to effectively weigh alternatives, including the cost avoidance associated with corrective action. Adaptation strategies must be pro-active and anticipatory. Failure to act strategically will be fiscally irresponsible.
The world’s forest cover is approximately 4 billion hectares (10 billion acres). Of this total, approximately one-half is temperate forests. These range from the subtropics to roughly 65 degrees in latitude. As we move toward the equator, the forests would generally be considered tropical or subtropical, while forest above the 65th latitude might be considered boreal. Only a relatively small fraction of the forests that are temperate are managed in any significant manner. The major types of management can vary from serious forest protection to selective harvesting, with considerations for regeneration. Intensive forestry exists in the form of plantation forestry and is similar to agricultural cropping. Seedlings are planted, and the trees are managed in various ways while growing (e.g. fertilizers, herbicides, thinnings) and then harvested at a mature age. Typically, the cycle of planting and management then begins anew.
Approximately 200 million hectares of forests are managed beyond simply minimal protection and natural regeneration. Recent estimates suggest that over 100 million hectares globally are intensively managed planted forests. The largest representatives of these forests are found in the Northern Hemisphere (e.g., the United States), China, and various countries of Europe, especially the Nordic countries. However, Brazil, Chile, New Zealand, and Australia are important producers while being in the Southern Hemisphere. A high percentage of managed forests are designed to produce industrial wood for construction and for pulp and paper production.
Finally, in some countries like China, planted forests are intended to replace forests destroyed decades and even centuries ago. Many of these planted forests are intended to provide environmental services, including water capture and control, erosion control and soil protection, flood control, and habitat for wild life. Recently, forests are being considered as a vehicle to help control global warming. In addition, afforestation and/or reforestation may help address damages after a disturbance such as a fire. In China, the “green wall” has been established to prevent shoreline erosion in major coastal areas.
The Mirage of Supply-side Development: The Hydraulic Mission and the Politics of Agriculture and Water in the Nile Basin
In an era of calamitous climate change, entrenched malnutrition, and the chronic exclusion of hundreds of millions of people from access to affordable energy, food, and water, evaluating the policy options of African states to address these challenges matters more than ever. In the Nile Basin especially, a region notorious for its poverty, violent instability and lack of industrialisation, states have invested their scarce resources and political capital in a “hydraulic mission” in the belief that they can engineer their way out of international marginalization. Incumbents have bet on large-scale hydro-infrastructure and capital-intensive agriculture to boost food production, strengthen energy security, and deal with water scarcity, despite the woeful track-record of such a supply-side approach to development.
While ruling elites in the Nile Basin have portrayed the hydraulic mission as the natural way of developing the region’s resources—supposedly validated by the historical achievements of Pharaonic civilization and its mastery over its tough environment—this is a modern fiction, spun to justify politically expedient projects and the exclusion of broad layers of the population. In the last two hundred years, the hydraulic mission has made three major political contributions that underline its strategic usefulness to centralizing elites: it has enabled the building of modern states and a growing bureaucratic apparatus around a riverain political economy; it has generated new national narratives that have allowed unpopular regimes to rebrand themselves as protectors of the nation; and it has facilitated the forging of external alliances, linking the resources and elites of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan to global markets and centers of influence. Mega-dams, huge canals and irrigation for export are fundamentally about power and the powerful—and the privileging of some interests and social formations over others. The one-sided focus on increasing supply—based on the false premise that this will allow ordinary people to access more food and water—transfers control over livelihoods from one (broad) group of people to (a much narrower) other one by legitimizing top-down interventionism and dislocation. What presents itself as a strategy of water resources and agricultural development is really about (re)constructing hierarchies between people. The mirage of supply-side development continues to seduce elites at the helm of the state because it keeps them in power and others out of it.
The economics literature has developed various methods to recover the values for environmental commodities. Two such methods related to revealed preference are property value hedonic models and equilibrium sorting models. These strategies employ the actual decisions that households make in the real estate market to indirectly measure household demand for environmental quality. The hedonic method decomposes the equilibrium price of a house based on the house’s structural and neighborhood/environmental characteristics to recover marginal willingness to pay (MWTP). The more recent equilibrium sorting literature estimates environmental values by combining equilibrium housing outcomes with a formal model of the residential choice process. The two predominant frameworks of empirical sorting models that have been adopted in the literature are the vertical pure characteristics model (PCM) and the random utility model (RUM). Along with assumptions on the structure of preferences, a formal model of the choice process on the demand side, and a characterization of the supply side to close the model, these sorting models can predict outcomes that allow for re-equilibration of prices and endogenous attributes following a counterfactual policy change.
Innovations to the hedonic model have enabled researchers to more aptly value environmental goods in the face of complications such as non-marginal changes (i.e., identification and endogeneity concerns with respect to recovering the entire demand curve), non-stable hedonic equilibria, and household dynamic behavior. Recent advancements in the sorting literature have also allowed these models to accommodate consumer dynamic behavior, labor markets considerations, and imperfect information. These established methods to estimate demand for environmental quality are a crucial input into environmental policymaking. A better understanding of these models, their assumptions, and the potential implications on benefit estimates due to their assumptions would allow regulators to have more confidence in applying these models’ estimates in welfare calculations.
Edward B. Barbier
Since the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, there has been strong interest globally in restoring mangrove ecosystems and their potential benefits from protecting coastlines and people from damaging storms. However, the net economic gains from mangrove restoration have been variable; there have been some notable project successes but also some prominent failures. There is also an ongoing debate over whether or not the cost of mangrove restoration is justified by the benefits these ecosystems provide. Although the high costs of mangrove restoration and the risk of failure have led to criticism of such schemes, perhaps the more pertinent concern should be whether the ex post option of restoration is economically beneficial compared to preventing irreversible mangrove conversion to alternative land uses. Case studies on mangrove valuation from Brazil and Thailand illustrate the key issues underlying this concern. Since much recent mangrove restoration has been motivated by the trees’ potential storm-protection benefit, a number of studies have valued mangroves for this purpose. However, mangroves are also valued for other important benefits, such as providing collected products for local coastal communities and serving as nursery and breeding grounds for off-shore fisheries. The implications of these benefits for mangrove restoration can be significant. It is also important to understand the appropriate use of benefit transfer when it is difficult to value restored mangroves, methods to incorporate the potential risk of mangrove restoration failure, and assessment of cost-effective mangrove restoration.
Ashley Barfield and Craig E. Landry
The result of interactive dynamics of the ocean, landforms, and weather patterns, sandy beaches and dunes are a natural feature along many coastlines around the world. Their contributions to overall social welfare are multifaceted and complex. Providing water access, recreation and tourism potential, scenic beauty, and leisure amenities, sandy coastlines have witnessed extensive commercial and residential development. Intact beach–dune systems provide coastal development projects with protection from storms, erosion, flooding, and (to some extent) sea-level rise. While yielding value through capital investment, market expansion, and the enhancement of access to natural amenities, increases in buildings and infrastructure can upset the delicate dynamic equilibrium in coastal systems. This, in turn, puts beaches, dunes, wetlands, wildlife habitats, and other ecological resources at risk. Concerns about these impacts have provided the impetus for several environmental management initiatives. Critical to these initiatives is information about the multidimensional economic and social values of coastal amenities, especially beaches and dunes.
The economic valuation of beach quality and coastal ecosystem services has traditionally focused on the implementation of non-market valuation techniques, including revealed (e.g., hedonic prices and travel costs) and stated preference (e.g., contingent valuation and choice experiment) approaches, in conjunction with survey/experimental design methods. Analysis of beach quality has become a vibrant topic, especially in response to concerns about the need for climate change adaptation; the impacts of sea-level rise; worsening and more frequent storm events; and changes in ocean temperature, salinity, and alkalinity. Each of these factors can ultimately impact beaches and coastal economies. As a result, the literature has broadened to include a number of interdisciplinary studies that feature the contributions of environmental economics, marine science, applied geology, natural resource management, risk and insurance, and urban planning disciplines, among others. These collaborations have advanced the science of coastal economics and management, but many significant challenges remain. Questions about the optimal order and timing of adaptation procedures, how to balance the provision of synergistic or conflicting goods and services, and how to design dynamic models that incorporate real-world management scenarios across different jurisdictions all require further investigation.
Massive population declines and species extinction have characterized the 20th and early 21st centuries. These local and global phenomena do not only involve the loss of particular species, habitats, and ecosystem services; they also result in a general reduction in biotic diversity. Ecological research has long indicated the importance of biodiversity within and across ecosystems. However, capturing the economic value of biodiversity remains a challenge.
Biodiversity is a multidimensional public good; it encompasses the diversity of genes, species, functional groups, habitats, and ecosystems. A large empirical literature in biology and ecology indicates that biodiversity has a stabilizing effect on ecosystems—the higher the biodiversity within a given ecosystem type, the more well-functioning (productive, stable, and resilient) is the ecosystem. However, the economic importance of biodiversity goes beyond this stabilizing effect.
The multidimensionality and complexity of the biodiversity concept has resulted in a multitude of approaches to its economic valuation. While the theoretical and conceptual literature has focused on biodiversity as insurance and as a pool of options, empirical studies have been much more diverse. Given the public-good nature and complexity of biodiversity, stated preference methods are particularly common. The focus on biodiversity valuation has fostered many important theoretical and methodological developments. Many estimates exist of the willingness to pay for biodiversity conservation in different countries across the world; however, relatively few studies have been conducted in developing countries despite the considerably higher biodiversity levels there as compared with the better-covered developed countries.
Valuation of biodiversity is a controversial subject, and the economic, predominantly anthropocentric approach has been criticized frequently. However, non-anthropocentric accounts of biodiversity value are problematic for their own reasons; an important question is whether biodiversity has intrinsic value and, if yes, whether this can be captured within the economic perspective. Valuation of biodiversity remains a vibrant topic at the intersections of disciplines such as ecology, environmental ethics, and economics.
Achilleas Vassilopoulos and Phoebe Koundouri
Water accounts for more than 70% of Earth’s surface, making marine ecosystems the largest and most important ecosystems of the planet. However, the fact that a large part of these ecosystems and their potential contribution to humans remains unexplored has rendered them unattractive for valuation exercises. On the contrary, coastal zones, , being the interface between the land, the sea, and human activities competing for space and resources, have been extensively studied with the objective of marine ecosystem services valuation. Examples of marine and coastal ecosystems are open oceans, coral reefs, deep seas, hydrothermal vents, abyssal plains, wetlands, rocky and sandy shores, mangroves, kelp forests, estuaries, salt marshes, and mudflats. Although there are arguments that no classification can capture the ways in which ecosystems contribute to human well-being and support human life, very often policymakers have to decide upon alternative uses of such natural environments. Should a given wetland be preserved or converted to agricultural land? Should a mangrove be designated within the protected areas system or be used for shrimp farming? To answer these questions, one needs first to establish the philosophical basis of value within the ecosystems framework. To this end, two vastly different approaches have been proposed. On the one hand, the nonutilitarian (biocentric) approach relies on the notion of intrinsic value attached to the mere existence of a natural resource, independent of whether humans derive utility from its use (if any) or preservation. Albeit useful in philosophical terms, this approach is still far from providing unambiguous and generally accepted inputs to the tangible problem of ecosystem valuation. The utilitarian (anthropocentric) perspective, on the other hand, assumes that natural environments have value to the extent that humans derive utility from placing such value. According to the total economic value (TEV) approach, this value can be divided into “use” and “nonuse.” Use values involve some interaction with the resource, either directly or indirectly, while nonuse values are derived simply from the knowledge that natural resources and aspects of the natural environment are maintained. Existence and altruistic values fall within this latter category.
Not surprisingly, economists have long revealed a strong preference for the utilitarian approach. As a result, the valuation of marine ecosystems requires that we understand the ecosystem services they deliver and then attach a value to the services. But what tools are available to economists when valuing marine ecosystems? For the most part, ecosystem services are not traded in formal markets and thus actual prices are usually not available. Valuation techniques essentially seek different ways to estimate measures like Willingness To Pay (WTP), Willingness To Accept (WTA), or expenditures and costs. The techniques used for the valuation of ecosystem services can be divided into three main families: market-based, revealed preference, and stated preference. Finally, value-transfer methods are also used when estimates of value are available in similar contexts. All these methods have advantages and disadvantages, with different methods being suitable for different situations. Hence, extra caution is required during the design and implementation of valuation attempts.
Different ecosystem values of the Amazon rainforest are surveyed in economic terms. Spatial rainforest valuation is crucial for good forest management, such as where to put the most effort to stop illegal logging and forest fires, and which areas to designate as new nationally protected areas. Three classes of economic value are identified, according to who does the valuation: values accruing to the local and regional populations (of South America); carbon values (which are global); and other global (noncarbon) values. Only the first two classes are discussed. Three types of value are separated according to ecosystem service delivered from the rainforest: provisioning services; supporting and regulating services; and cultural and other human services. Net values of provisioning services, including reduced impact logging and various non-timber forest products, are well documented for the entire Brazilian Amazon at a spatially detailed scale and amount to at least $20–50/ha/year. Less-detailed information exists about values of fish, game, and bioprospecting from the Amazon, although their total values can be shown to be sizable. Many supporting and regulating services are harder to value economically, in particular climate regulation and watershed and erosion protection. Impacts of changed rainfall when Amazon rainforest is lost have been valued at detailed scale, but with relative model values of $10–20/ha/year. Carbon values are much larger, at a carbon price of $30/ton CO2, around $14,000/ha as capitalized value. The average per-hectare value of tourism and the health benefits from having the Amazon forest are low, and such values cannot easily be pinned down to individual areas of the Amazon. Finally, the biodiversity values of the Amazon, as accruing to the local and regional population, seem to be small based on recent stated-preference work in Brazil. Most of the values related to biodiversity are likely to be global and may. in principle, be very large, but the global components are not valued here. The concept of value is discussed, and a marginal valuation concept (practically useful for policy) is favored as opposed to an average or total valuation. Marginal value can be below average value (as is likely for biodiversity and tourism), but can also in some contexts be higher. This can occur where losing forest at a local scale increases the prevalence of forest fires and where it increases forest dryness, leading to a multiplier process whereby more forest is lost. While strides have recently been made to improve rainforest valuation at both micro- and macroscales, much work still remains.
Alexandra Dehnhardt, Kati Häfner, Anna-Marie Blankenbach, and Jürgen Meyerhoff
All types of wetlands around the world are heavily threatened. According to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, they comprise “areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish, or salt.” While they are estimated still to cover 1,280 million hectares worldwide, large shares of wetlands were destroyed during the 20th century, mainly as a result of land use changes. According to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA), this applies above all to North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, but wetlands were also heavily degraded in other parts of the world. Moreover, degradation is expected to accelerate in the future due to global environmental change. These developments are alarming because wetlands deliver a broad range of ecosystem services to societies, contributing significantly to human well-being. Among those services are water supply and purification, flood regulation, climate regulation, and opportunities for recreation, to name only a few. The benefits humans derive from those services, however, often are not reflected in markets as they are public goods in nature. Thus, arguing in favor of the preservation of wetlands requires, inter alia, to make the non-marketed economic benefits more visible and comparable to those from alternative—generally private—uses of converted wetlands, which are often much smaller. The significance of the non-market value of wetland services has been demonstrated in the literature: the benefits derived from wetlands have been one of the most frequently investigated topics in environmental economics and are integrated in meta-analyses devoted to synthesizing the present knowledge about the value of wetlands. The meta-analyses that cover both different types of wetlands in different landscapes as well as different geographical regions are supplemented by recent primary studies on topics of increasing importance such as floodplains and peatlands, as they bear, for example, a large flood regulation and climate change mitigation potential, respectively. The results underpin that the conversion of wetlands is accompanied by significant losses in benefits. Moreover, wetland preservation is economically beneficial given the large number of ecosystem services provided by wetland ecosystems. Thus, decision-making that might affect the status and amount of wetlands directly or indirectly should consider the full range of benefits of wetland ecosystems.
Amy W. Ando and Noelwah R. Netusil
Green stormwater infrastructure (GSI), a decentralized approach for managing stormwater that uses natural systems or engineered systems mimicking the natural environment, is being adopted by cities around the world to manage stormwater runoff. The primary benefits of such systems include reduced flooding and improved water quality. GSI projects, such as green roofs, urban tree planting, rain gardens and bioswales, rain barrels, and green streets may also generate cobenefits such as aesthetic improvement, reduced net CO2 emissions, reduced air pollution, and habitat improvement. GSI adoption has been fueled by the promise of environmental benefits along with evidence that GSI is a cost-effective stormwater management strategy, and methods have been developed by economists to quantify those benefits to support GSI planning and policy efforts. A body of multidisciplinary research has quantified significant net benefits from GSI, with particularly robust evidence regarding green roofs, urban trees, and green streets. While many GSI projects generate positive benefits through ecosystem service provision, those benefits can vary with details of the location and the type and scale of GSI installation. Previous work reveals several pitfalls in estimating the benefits of GSI that scientists should avoid, such as double counting values, counting transfer payments as benefits, and using values for benefits like avoided carbon emissions that are biased. Important gaps remain in current knowledge regarding the benefits of GSI, including benefit estimates for some types of GSI elements and outcomes, understanding how GSI benefits last over time, and the distribution of GSI benefits among different groups in urban areas.