- Trends & Issues
- History and definitions
- The business case
Biodiversity means variety of life at genetic, species and ecosystem level. Loss of biodiversity is a natural process, but the rate at which species are being lost in modern age, due to human interventions, is estimated to be between 100 and 1000 times higher than the natural extinction rate. There is now a growing awareness that the risk of ecosystems tipping into undesirable states due to human intervention increases as biodiversity decreases (Rockström et al. 2009). This implies an increasingly widespread view of biodiversity preservation as not only an ethical issue, but also one of sustaining ecosystem services and thereby human societies. The primary cause for biodiversity loss is land use, e.g. deforestation and agriculture, as these affect entire ecosystems and deprive species of their habitats. Other important threats are climate change, including ocean acidification, invasive species, chemical pollution, and overexploitation (http://www.millenniumassessment.org/documents/document.354.aspx.pdf).
Valuation of biodiversity and ecosystem services
An effect of the growing concern for biodiversity issues is an increased interest in valuation of biodiversity and ecosystem services in economic terms. This is a well established procedure in cost benefit analysis and it has received increased attention and been further developed over the last few years (http://www.realclimateeconomics.org/, http://www.teebweb.org/). It is, since many years back, discussed whether it’s ethically correct to value species and ecosystems in monetary terms. The opponents claim that this is a cynical approach that depreciates the true value of living organisms; that species and even ecosystems have an intrinsic value beyond economic measures. Towards this can be argued that it is important to value ecosystem services and biodiversity at all, even in an imperfect way, as continued ignorance of these values will most likely cause severe damages on ecosystems, but also on human societies when ecosystem services fail.
Rockström, J., W. Steffen, et al. (2009). “A safe operating space for humanity.” Nature 461(7263): 472-475.
Rockström, J., W. Steffen, et al. (2009). “Planetary boundaries: Exploring the safe operating space for humanity.” Ecology and Society 14(2): 32.