VALUING ECOSYSTEM GOODS AND SERVICES
Sharing the knowledge required by policy-makers to incorporate ecosystem services valuation into land-use decision making in the Peruvian Amazon
It is generally understood that humans benefit from wild nature via the provision of ecosystem goods and services such as harvestable animals and plants used for food, fuel, and fibre; climate regulation; nutrient cycling; pollution control, and so forth. These benefits should provide strong incentives to conserve nature, however a lack of quality information on the economic value of these goods and services, and their rate of provision, means that they are frequently overlooked or downplayed when it comes to making important decisions regards retaining or converting wild habitats (e.g. rainforest), especially when short-term private economic gains (i.e. profits) from conversion are at stake.
Although it may be difficult or sometimes impossible for certain ecosystem goods and services to be marketed (i.e. bought and sold), and thus will lack a price signal for comparable valuation with competing human-made goods and services, it is necessary to furnish decision-makers in government and civil society with reliable estimates of the value of ecosystem goods and services, so that they can be properly considered.
What is really important for decision-makers in our geographical area of interest, the Peruvian Amazon, to know is the rate of provision of ecosystem goods and services associated with tropical forests, and how these are related to the ecosystem processes that underpin them. This can provide data on both the marginal value as well as the total value of ecosystem goods and services for a particular area. In addition, showcasing the negative impacts of perverse incentives resulting from existing government legislation, which can act to artificially increase the economic value of habitat conversion, is also very important for decision-makers to fully understand the potential repercussions of their decisions.
We have begun this process by understanding the value of intact rainforest for ecotourism development, from a private and social cost-benefit perspective. We are also focused on understanding the rate of provision of non-timber forest products in forests under different management regimes.