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Eco Assets & Ecosystem Services

eco-assetsIn 1995, the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment outlined a process for cataloguing and accounting for ecosystem functions that provide direct and indirect services for humans.  The premise is that ecosystems generate services, services have benefits and benefits have value.  Consequently, in order to fully account for the benefits of proposed regulatory or management actions, it is necessary to more fully quantify those benefits in evaluations of alternatives.  To some extent, the process borrows from the tools and methods of economics in order to better manage the environment.  And while monetization is not required to assess benefits, monetizing does have the advantage of more easily integrating into cost-benefit analyses.  Economics is concerned with the tradeoffs that people are willing to make in order to maximize utility.  Many of these tradeoffs involve money (and in those cases we can often observe people making decisions in a market context, such as buying cars, contributing to the Sierra Club, and so on).  There is no observable market for most of the ecosystem services that provide most of the benefits to people.  Consequently, alternative methods must be used.  In addition, we still need to develop many of the tools and methods for quantifying meaningful environmental changes that can subsequently be valued.

E Risk Sciences, LLP has experience designing analyses and approaches for quantifying ecosystem services and incorporating these concepts into site specific decision making, including development of net environmental benefits analyses, developing sustainability indices, and estimating willingness-to-pay for public and nonmarket goods.


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