95th ESA Annual Meeting (August 1 -- 6, 2010)

SYMP 1 -6 - Valuing nature in a changing world

Monday, August 2, 2010: 3:20 PM
Blrm A, David L Lawrence Convention Center
Steve Polasky, Department of Applied Economics and Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN
Background/Question/Methods and Results/Conclusions

Human society depends on vital goods and services provided by ecosystems. But human actions threaten to erode the ability of ecosystems to provide these ecosystem services. In market economies, firms are rewarded for producing commodities but not for protecting environmental quality necessary for sustained provision of ecosystem services. Consumers pay market prices that do not necessarily reflect the full costs of their production and consumption. Unless society fixes this imbalance and begins to properly account for the value of nature we are unlikely to see fundamental change necessary to sustain ecosystem services. Addressing this imbalance requires addressing three tasks:

1) Improved understanding of the likely consequences of human actions on ecosystems and their ultimate impacts on ecosystem services and biodiversity (“ecological production functions”)

2) Improved understanding of the value of changes in ecosystem services or biodiversity (“valuation”)

3) Design of institutions and policies that provide correct signals of values to producers and consumers (“incentives”)

This talk will provide examples that integrate ecological production functions, valuation and incentives to study the value of ecosystem services provided at a landscape scale using a spatially explicit modeling tool, InVEST (Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Tradeoffs). Quantifying ecosystem services in a spatially explicit manner, and analyzing tradeoffs among them, can help to make more effective, efficient and defensible land use and resource use decisions. Recent work to include important elements of system dynamics, changing conditions (e.g., climate change), stochastic disturbances, and decision-making under uncertainty will be highlighted.