Economic valuation of ecosystem goods and environmental services. Part one

Why should we appreciate environmental services? What do they contribute to the ecosystems?

Science and technology have allowed the human species to extend its influence to cover the global scale, allowing us to conduct global transformation of the operation and structure of ecological systems. It is estimated that between a third and half of the world has been transformed by human action. Among other indicators we see:

  • That the concentration of carbon dioxide has increased by almost 30% since the beginning of the industrial revolution.
  • That mankind sets more atmospheric nitrogen than all terrestrial ecosystems, which uses more than half of all surface freshwater of the continents, which uses between 10 and 55% of the terrestrial products of photosynthesis.
  • That about a quarter of the species of birds are endangered (Postel et al., 1996; Vitousek et al, 1986, 1997, Rojstaczer et al, 2001).

On the other hand, these ecosystems are providing humanity, through its structure, assets (*), as species with, commercial, hunting, fishing, livestock, agricultural, and forest interest, and, through its operation, services (*) such as water supply, waste assimilation, soil fertility, pollination, aesthetic and emotional pleasure of landscapes, etc. These goods flow and the services are vital to the economy. Therefore, the changes that are produced by altering the function and structure of ecosystems, are also affecting the supply of goods and services they provide.

For this reason, more and more authors are basing the idea of sustainability or sustainable development on the need to ensure that supply, current and / or potential, environmental services, which are essential for the maintenance of capital and human development of our society (Goodland and Daly, 1996).