Friday, June 26, 2009

Investing in ecosystems

Economists have long assisted with valuing the world's natural assets and ecosystems. To create functional markets to exchange this value is the next step. I agreed to talk on this in the local context of the fynbos biome....

“After all those cosy years of working together,  show me the money”: 

From economic valuation to real-world investment in the fynbos biome

Key words: economic valuation, ecosystems, fynbos, decision making, institutional processes and arrangements

The last decade has seen several studies demonstrating the economic value of ecosystems and the fynbos biome is no exception.  Despite notable criticism on some of these studies, on average they have succeeded in raising the awareness on the value of well-functioning ecosystems.  In some instances this has led to conservation and restoration success on the ground, but what is needed is an institutional system that will translate abstract economic values into real financial investments in ecosystems. With continued increased pressure on the world’s biodiversity on the one hand and shifting agendas towards climate change and a rather reductionist and in practice partial ecosystems goods and services (EGS) analysis on the other, economists and ecologists need to build on their successes and find new meaning in their work on total systems value, as opposed to a focus on total economic value (TEV) or an EGS analysis only.  Economists and ecologists would also do well by soliciting the services of those who can assist in the development of new institutional processes and arrangements that can capture the real financial benefits of well-functioning ecosystems beyond the usual short-term and consumptive benefits.  Based on a analysis of current bottlenecks to realise real-world investments in specifically fynbos ecosystems, an action-orientated agenda focussed on performing economic valuation studies to better serve the needs of decision makers, an increased understanding of and leverage of total systems value, and a renewed focus on the institutional process and arrangements to capture fynbos ecosystem values, is proposed.  

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