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8: Introduction to Utilitarian Valuation of Biodiversity

  • Page ID
    17399
    • Nora.jpg
    • Contributed by Nora Bynum
    • Instructor and Vice Provost for Duke Kunshan University (Environmental Science & Policy Division) at Duke University

    Determining the value or worth of biodiversity is complex. Economists typically subdivide utilitarian or use values of biodiversity into direct use value for those goods that are consumed directly, such as food or timber, and indirect use value for those services that support the items that are consumed, including ecosystem functions like nutrient cycling.

    There are several less tangible values that are sometimes called non-use or passive values, for things that we don't use but would consider as a loss if they were to disappear; these include existence value, the value of knowing something exists even if you will never use it or see it, and bequest value, the value of knowing something will be there for future generations (Moran and Pearce 1994). Potential or Option value refers to the use that something may have in the future; sometimes this is included as a use value, we have chosen to include it within the passive values here based on its abstract nature. The components included within the category of "utilitarian" values vary somewhat in the literature. For example, some authors classify spiritual, cultural, and aesthetic values as indirect use values, whiles others consider them to be non-use values, differentiated from indirect use values -- such as nutrient cycling -- because spiritual, cultural, and aesthetic values for biodiversity are not essential to human survival. Still others consider these values as separate categories entirely. (See also, Callicott 1997, Hunter 2002, Moran and Pearce 1994, Perlman and Adelson 1997, Primack 2002, Van Dyke 2003). In this module, we include spiritual, cultural and aesthetic values as a subset of indirect values or services, as they provide a service by enriching our lives (Table).

    Direct Use Value (Goods) Indirect Use Value (Services) Non-Use Values
    Food, medicine, building material, fiber, fuel Atmospheric and climate regulation, pollination, nutrient recycling Potential (or Option) Value Future value either as a good or a service
    Cultural, Spiritual, and Aesthetic Existence Value Value of knowing something exists
    Bequest Value Value of knowing that something will be there for future generations

    Table \(\PageIndex{1}\) Categories of Values of Biodiversity

    Note

    Some authors choose to differentiate Cultural, Spiritual, Aesthetic, and Non-Use Values from those services that provide basic survival needs such as the air we breathe.

    Glossary

    direct use value
    refers to products or goods which are consumed directly such as food or timber
    indirect use value
    refers to the services that support the products that are consumed, this includes ecosystems functions like nutrient cycling
    non use or passive value
    refers to the value for things that we don't use but would feel a loss if they were to disappear
    existence value
    the value of knowing something exists even if you will never use it or see it
    bequest value
    the value of knowing something will be there for future generations
    potential or option value
    refers to the use that something may have in the future