Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Pros and cons of valuing nature

Nature is increasingly being assigned a monetary value so that we can understand its benefits in an economic context. EU researchers investigated how the economic valuing of nature has been applied in the UK and whether it has worked.
Pros and cons of valuing nature
In Europe and around the world, biodiversity conservation is being reframed around nature's economic value. This is affecting the way that society perceives the natural world.

Two concepts that have been used to apportion economic value to nature are biodiversity offsetting and ecosystem services.

Biodiversity offsetting involves the exchange of biodiversity threatened or lost in one place – by development, for example – with biodiversity created or preserved somewhere else. Advocates believe this approach allows development to take place while ensuring no net loss of biodiversity.

The concept of ecosystem services provides a framework for assigning a monetary value to the benefits people receive from nature, such as water, pollination and spaces for recreation.

EU-funded researchers from the CESINE (Conservation and ecosystem services in the new biodiversity economy) initiative investigated the effects of using this approach to evaluate nature. They drew on the biological and social sciences, as well as the interdisciplinary field of political ecology.

To gather data, researchers conducted 63 interviews with various stakeholders; semi-structured as well as in-depth interviews. In addition, they conducted fieldwork at seven sites around England, where issues related to ecosystem services and biodiversity offsetting were important in local conservation decisions.

Based on their research, the scientists identified biodiversity offsetting as the most radical policy innovation of market-based conservation. They provide an analysis of biodiversity offsetting in the UK, why it emerged and how it operated in the English context.

They also suggest that both biodiversity offsetting and ecosystem services are changing the relationship between society and nature.

The CESINE initiative offers an important reflection on the changing approaches to biodiversity conservation and management following the financial crash of 2008. The results are relevant to policy-makers, scholars and activists who want to understand the implications of restructuring environmental policies around the economic value of nature.

Related information

Keywords

Biodiversity conservation, biodiversity offsetting, ecosystem services, CESINE, policy, market-based conservation
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