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Valuing Nature Network

About the project

The first Valuing Nature Network phase ran between 2011 and 2014 to bring together natural scientists and economists, alongside decision-makers in business and policy, with an interest in valuing nature.

This phase I of the Network established the network membership and ran ten interdisciplinary projects.

The current five year, £6.5m Valuing Nature Programme aims to develop the Network to encompass broader research areas and further engage businesses, policymakers and practitioners as research users.

 

Phase one aims

The aims were to

  • Articulate the challenge of valuing the contribution that the stock of natural capital and the flow of ecosystem services make to human well-being, and developing meaningful methods of valuation.
  • Identify and develop the underpinning socio-ecological system knowledge that will enable robust monetary and non-monetary valuation to be achieved.


Phase one challenges

Activities were focused on four challenges:

  • How can the complexity of socio-ecological systems be incorporated into valuations of biodiversity, ecosystem services and natural resource use?
  • How can stock sustainability be incorporated within valuations of biodiversity, ecosystem services and natural resource use?
  • How can issues of scale be incorporated within valuations of biodiversity, ecosystem services and natural resource use?
  • How do we integrate natural and social science information on values for biodiversity, ecosystem services and natural resources into governance and so improve decision-making and implementation?

 

CSERGE researchers were involved in several research projects which contributed to addressing these challenges.

 

Coastal Management

 

The Coastal Management project set up a network of people from many different research areas to get a better understanding of the importance of the coastal and marine environment to people: e.g. in terms of jobs, health and recreation and amenity.

This project aimed to better define, quantify and value coastal ecosystem services and benefits, and to distinguish between the ‘stock’ position, i.e. the available amount of coastal ecosystem services at a given point in time, and the ‘flow’ position, i.e. the incremental changes in the supply of services over time.

The project proposed a particular interpretation of the ecosystem services stock and flow concepts in order to distinguish between the monetary accounting value of the ecosystem services stock (at a given point in time, and analogous to the economic activity measure Gross Domestic Product GDP); and the economic (marginal) value of incremental changes in flows of ecosystem services over time.

These monetary estimates can serve to emphasise the ‘significance’ of ecosystem services to the economy and human welfare, and may carry further traction with Finance Ministries and their thinking because they are explicitly couched in monetary terms.

The approach adopted has served to re-emphasise how the basic ecosystem processes and structure that underpins the stock and flow of ecosystem services is fundamentally ‘valuable’ in its own right. Thus it is always the case that the total monetary economic value (related to the sum of the flow of ecosystem services) is less than total system value.

This has important implications for policy options appraisal and trade off decision making. It requires, among other things, that economic cost-benefit decision support analysis must be constrained by ‘regulations’ that reflect precautionary thinking if it is suspected that environmental ‘limits’, i.e. thresholds and irreversibilities (changes that cannot be reversed either because it is too costly to do so or technologically not feasible) may be approaching.

Read the final report.

Contact: Kerry Turner