Using an Ecosystem Approach
19-20 November 2018. Beurs van Berlage, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
The concept of Ecosystem Services (ES) is a holistic approach and addresses the whole ecosystem. It can be used as a starting point for the integrated assessment and evaluation of project benefits and impacts. Nature-based solutions focus on the use of natural processes in the implementation and operation of hydraulic engineering infrastructure. Ideally these concepts result in lower lifecycle costs in monetary terms, but this is not always the case. Often non-financial benefits like ecosystem services and biodiversity are important selling points. In such cases, decision makers should be facilitated to value the project-induced benefits for nature and society in order to justify the extra investments that may be involved.
Contingent Valuation Methods can be used to expresses non-financial values of water infrastructure developments in monetary terms, in order to include them in a Socio-economic Cost Benefit Analysis (SCBA). The approach is based on the ES concept.
In order to understand the way in which the benefits of the natural environment can be valued, it is important to note the definition of value that is used. The economic value of ecosystems is defined as the amount of both material and immaterial forms of welfare that nature generates for society. This means that the economic value is larger than the cash flows derived from nature. These cash flows, which can be rather limited for non-exploited pristine nature areas, form the financial value. The economic value however also comprises all types of ecosystem services like contribution to clean water, carbon sequestration, coastal protection, recreation, etc. The broad welfare definition means that the economic value is a purely anthropocentric measurement. Economic value pertains strictly to human welfare. It does not capture intrinsic values, such as welfare for other organisms, plants and animals.
Unlike the intrinsic value, the economic value of ecosystems can be expressed in monetary terms by means of several economic valuation techniques, after which it can be included in socio-economic cost benefit analyses.
Ecosystem services are defined as the benefits that humans derive from nature. Ecosystems generate human welfare because they produce goods and services that humans can use directly or indirectly (through the use of other goods or services). Examples of direct forms of use pertain to goods such as wood, clean water and fish or to services such as recreational opportunities, protection against flooding or climate change. Examples of indirect forms of use are ‘nutrient recycling’ and ‘fish nurseries’ which result in ‘clean water’ and ‘fish production’, respectively.
Last update: 26 July 2018