- Think of a recent infrastructure development near where you live, such as a recently-built road or dam. Try to come up with a list of ecosystem services that were damaged by this development. Who carries the costs of these lost services? Do you think the benefits from the development were worth the costs? Explain your answer.
- Do individual organisms, populations, species, and biological communities have rights? What about physical features such as lakes, rivers, and mountains? While explaining your answer, also think about where we should draw the line of moral responsibility in how we care for nature.
- A European botanist on holiday visits your area. During a short hike, you show this botanist a plant used as a traditional treatment for malaria. The botanist takes samples of this plant back to Europe, where subsequent testing shows that it can be used to develop an effective anti-malarial drug. Who do you think should receive the profits from this new drug? The botanist who undertook the trip, and you because you showed the botanist the plant? What about the organization that funded the drug’s development, and the scientists who synthesised the new drug? What about all the people who educated you and your family in the plant’s value? If the profits belong to multiple entities, how should it be divided?
- More than a decade ago, the shark ecotourism industry at Gansbaai, South Africa, was estimated at US $4.4 million annually (Hara et al., 2003)—it has been increasing ever since. There are an estimated 900 great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias, VU) living in Gansbaai (Towner et al., 2013). Assuming the average white shark lives for 70 years (Hamady et al., 2014), what is the value of each shark at Gansbaai? Can you find (or estimate) the price that a single shark sold for food would obtain on the world market? How do these values compare? What do you think is the best use of the sharks?
Allsopp, M.H., W.J. de Lange, and R. Veldtman. 2008. Valuing insect pollination services with cost of replacement. PLoS ONE 3: e3128. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0003128 A study estimating the economic value of local pollination services.
Costanza, R., R. de Groot, P. Sutton, et al. 2014. Changes in the global value of ecosystem services. Global Environmental Change 26: 152–58. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2014.04.002 An attempt to value all ecosystem services.
Farber, S.C., R. Costanza, and A.M. Wilson. 2002. Economic and ecological concepts for valuing ecosystem services. Ecological Economics 41: 375–92. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0921-8009(02)00088-5 Methods for estimating the value of ecosystem services.
Isbell, F., V. Calcagno, A. Hector, et al. 2011. High plant diversity is needed to maintain ecosystem services. Nature 477: 199–202. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature10282 Maintaining ecosystem services requires protecting a diversity of species.
Koné, I., J.E. Lambert, J. Refisch, et al. 2008. Primate seed dispersal and its potential role in maintaining useful tree species in the Taï region, Côte d’Ivoire: Implications for the conservation of forest fragments. Tropical Conservation Science 1: 293–306. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F194008290800100309 Maintaining primate populations is important also for humans who rely on forest resources.
Markandya, A., T. Taylor, A. Longo, et al. 2008. Counting the cost of vulture decline—an appraisal of the human health and other benefits of vultures in India. Ecological Economics 67: 194-204. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolecon.2008.04.020 A study illustrating the value of vultures.
Naidoo, R., B. Fisher, A. Manica, et al. 2016. Estimating economic losses to tourism in Africa from the illegal killing of elephants. Nature Communications 7: 13379. https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms13379 Africa loses US $25 million annually from elephant poaching.
Peterson, G.D., Z.V. Harmackova, M. Meacham, et al. 2018. Welcoming different perspectives in IPBES: “Nature’s contributions to people” and “Ecosystem services”. Ecology and Society 23: 39. https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-10134-230139 Addressing shortcomings of the ecosystem services concept
Schleicher, J., M. Schaafsma, N.D. Burgess, et al. 2018. Poorer without it? The neglected role of the natural environment in poverty and wellbeing. Sustainable Development 25: 83–98. https://doi.org/10.1002/sd.1692 The environment and human well-being are intricately linked.