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Ecosystem services : Valuing our natural capital

Written by Didier Bourguignon
© Pellinni / Fotolia

The concept of ecosystem services providing direct and indirect contributions to human wellbeing has been developed since the 1990s as a way to improve the effectiveness of biodiversity-protection policies. Ecosystem services can be categorised in four broad types: provisioning, regulating, cultural and habitat services. The status of most ecosystem services across the EU is either degraded or mixed, although some are showing improvement.

A global initiative on the economics of ecosystems and biodiversity, which started in 2007, has set a framework for valuing ecosystem services. The EU has launched a process aimed at increasing the knowledge base related to ecosystem services, with a view to mapping and assessing ecosystems and their services in the Member States.

Economic valuation of ecosystem services has made great progress over the past 25 years, although it is still largely based on approximations and incomplete knowledge. The valuation of ecosystem services can contribute to better-informed decision-making and market-based mechanisms promoting biodiversity protection (as in the case of schemes for payment for ecosystem services). However such cases are not widespread.

European Commission estimates show that the Natura 2000 network provides services worth between €200 and €300 billion per year.

Parliament has consistently called for ecosystem services to be an essential element of biodiversity protection.

Read this Briefing on Ecosystem services : Valuing our natural capital in PDF
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