…Thus in the face of such diversity and complexity it should come as no surprise that wetlands have diverse values and are also valued differently. A fisherman or farmer values wetlands as a source of subsistence and livelihood, an engineer or planner values them as a power source and natural water infrastructure, a birdwatcher or water-sports enthusiast values them as a place for leisure activities, and so on. Hence assuming that everyone values wetlands in the same way when it is not the case in reality can lead to unexpected trade-offs and conflicts. TEEB for Water and Wetlands advocates that “In order to unlock the potential of wetlands, it is necessary to recognize who benefits, by how much, from which ecosystem services and how this might improve with positive restoration and management activities – or risk being negatively affected by any ecosystem degradation.”
Asking questions and raising concerns are a natural response to new ideas. They offer the opportunity for discourse and are a form of peer review. Some of the most commonly asked questions concerning the process of valuing the benefits of nature are as follows:
This is an excellent peice by Anand Chandrasekhar discusses some of the finer points when it comes to putting a ‘value’ or a ‘price’ on ecosystems. Wetlands are a great ecosystem to start with – we understand a fair amount of their biology/physiology/ecology, they are usually easy to define and deliniate, and their values (water purification, habtiat, flood control) are compartively easy to understand too. Thus, wetlands are the focus of the TEEB study Anand references. I am a big fan of the material TEEB produces. It’s interesting and relevant.
Of course, as one reads this, one is struck by the very anthropocentric approach to valuation that can occur. Who values it? How much benefit does it give them?
Arguably there are some very unique, important and worthy ecosystems out there that might not be ‘valued’ by society at large, or produce tangible benefit (like water purification) to those around it. Worse, in our current ignorance we might think an ecosystem produces little benefit, then discover unknown qualities that become conspicuous by their absence.
Not everyone agrees, but I am personally of the opnion that anthropocentric valuation is a useful place to start, and an appropriate way of engaging a distracted or uniformed audiance. But the proffessionals must not stop at this form of valuation alone.
As Anand states: "Therefore the right approach to ecosystem valuation is one that acknowledges the limits, risks and complexities involved, covers different types of value appreciation, and includes various categories of response at the level of public policies, voluntary mechanisms and markets. A diversity of values is a good thing."
See on www.teebweb.org