The Detrimental Effects of Environmental Change

The conservation community is working toward the collective goal of developing practical interdisciplinary approaches to protecting and restoring biological diversity.[footnoteRef:1] Traditional approaches rooted in moral and ethical arguments and utilizing abstract concepts such as intrinsic value have undeniably contributed to slowing the degradation of ecosystems, [footnoteRef:2] however, these approaches have been insufficient given the breadth and magnitude of threats to the ecosystems.[footnoteRef:3]

The world was far from achieving the 2010 Biodiversity Target,[footnoteRef:4] and the planet currently in its sixth mass extinction of plants and animals, specifically, the planet is experiencing the worst series of species die offs since the dinosaurs.

[footnoteRef:5] Most conservation policy and resource management planning was conceived and established prior to the widespread recognition of the unprecedent pace and magnitude of human induced environmental change.[footnoteRef:6] In addition, currently, the widespread recognition of environmental change is not matched by an equal commitment to preventing further destruction and restoring previous damage. If we have any aspirations to preserve our planet we need to expand on our current methods and broaden our approach to conservation in a manner that emphasizes the importance and value of ecosystems to people.


The ecosystem services agenda] [3: The evidence and values underlying ‘new conservation’] [4: The evidence and values underlying ‘new conservation’]] [6: Beyond Resilience (Fuller and Kareiva)]

Ecosystem services, as defined in The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity’s 2010 synthesis report are “the direct and indirect contributions of ecosystems to human wellbeing.

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”[footnoteRef:7] Ecosystem services are separated into four main categories; “provisioning (supplying products such as food or genetic resources), regulation (contribution regulatory functions such as flood control), cultural (supplying nonmaterial benefits such as sense of spiritual well-being) and supporting (providing basic elements of the ecosystem such as soil formation).”[footnoteRef:8] Valuation, including economic valuation provides Services are actually conceptualizations (‘labels’) of the “useful things” ecosystems “do”a universally understood method for evaluating the benefits provided by ecosystems and the costs of environmental change to human wellbeing.

The rationale behind the ecosystem services concept, is to increase the awareness of humanities dependence on numerous ecosystems[footnoteRef:9] and the detrimental effects of environmental change (how environmental changes directly affect critical ecosystem functioning associated with human wellbeing[footnoteRef:10]) through a method that is comprehensible and broadly applicable, inevitably broadening the support base and motivation for conservation. Then to use this motivation to generate transdisciplinary discussion resulting policymaking and resource management that protects and rehabilitates ecosystems to the level where they can continue to provision essential services.[footnoteRef:11] (Concluding sentence – thesis) (Ecosystem services encompass and valuate the services that contribute to human wellbeing generating incentive – in the pursuit.) Comment by Microsoft Office User: Is this weird to have in an academic paper? [7: TEEB 2010] [8: TEEB] [9: Conservation for the People] [10: The ecosystem services agenda] [11: The ecosystem services agenda]

Many of these services are traded in markets, however serval of these services and processes, for which there are no markets and as such no economic value is assigned, (such as water filtration, flood and disease control, pollination) often are unconsidered.[footnoteRef:12] [12: Conservation for the People]

Ecosystem services provide vital resources to humanity, however, since many are not traded in markets, there is no economic value assigned to them and are seen as positive externalities and when left unquantified are greatly undervalued. The value of ecosystem services is often not considered in policymaking because the services are externalities in the economy and no physical value has been assigned. Many of the human induced disruptions that cause alterations in the ecosystems that provide essential services are difficult or impossible to reverse, and if the current trend continues the Earth’s remaining natural ecosystems will be dramatically altered.

Consequently, if the ecosystems collapse their services will have to be provided artificially which may be expensive and potentially inadequate. It is unrealistic to expect everyone to have a keen interest in protecting nature for its own sake, however, we can expect individuals to preserve nature if it is in their best interest to do so. The ecosystem services concept creates a platform for transdisciplinary conversation by assigning value to natural ecosystems enabling informed decision making in policymaking. It also provides incentive for ration actors to support conservation for independent reasons in addition to, functioning as a feedback mechanism enabling adjustments in policies. [13: Ecosystem services: Benefits Supplied to Human Societies by Natural Ecosystems]

Economic arithmetic is universally understood (word) motivating. As such, the valuation of ecosystem services into terms that decision makers from diverse (variety) backgrounds (/fields) (with a variety of views and interests) can collectively comprehend, facilitates productive interdisciplinary discussion about preserving natural ecosystems. The concept provides a consistent and transparent method to evaluating the trade-offs (ecological, economic, socio-cultural and monetary) associated with the destruction of ecosystems “using a language which speaks to dominant economic and political views around the world.”[footnoteRef:14]

Economic valuation also has the potential to be used as a feedback mechanism for a society that has distanced itself from the repercussions of its actions.[footnoteRef:15] Through the comparison of accurate economic valuations of the services provisioned by the environment, across extended periods of time, can allow monitoring of the effects of human disruptions on natural ecosystems.[footnoteRef:16] This enables rational actors to make informed decisions about policy adjustments pertaining to conservation efforts. “Economic valuation may contribute to [addressing] our inability, reluctance or ideological intolerance to adjust institutions to our knowledge of ecosystems, biodiversity and the human being. As such, it can contribute to more inclusive economic accounting and planning, and a more inclusive view of non-human beings.”[footnoteRef:17] It can aid prominent decisionmakers in making informed choices with respect to designing sustainable development policies and fulfilling their responsibilities in conserving the environment.[footnoteRef:18][footnoteRef:19] [14: TEEB] [15: The ecosystem services agenda] [16: TEEB] [17: TEEB] [18: The ecosystem services agenda] [19: TEEB]

In addition to being used as a tool in decision making, economic valuation demonstrates people’s dependence on natural ecosystems. Recognizing the economic value of these services generates compelling incentive for ration actors to participate in efforts that preserve natural ecosystems and ensure the continued production of the services they provide.[footnoteRef:20] Ecosystem services expands the conservation toolbox and (expands the scope/ garner) interest and support for environmental protection by appealing to a larger group of individuals and increasing their willingness to help. Including ecosystem services as a tool does not exclude generic approaches from being used. (imply that we cannot appeal to people using generic approaches) Traditional approaches premised on moral and ethical arguments, despite being insufficient, have been effective are garnering support,[footnoteRef:21] however, it is important to recognize that individuals have different priorities and are motivated by different influences and we must expand our approach to conservation to appeal to a broader audience. [20: Conservation for the people] [21: The evidence and values underlying “new conservation”]

There are three broad categories of counterarguments against ecosystems services as a conservation method. The first is ethical considerations; arguments surrounding environmental ethics such as the approach being too anthropocentric and how the concept potentially fosters a distorted human-nature relationship. The second pertains to other strategies of conservation; how the ecosystem services concept may conflict with traditional approaches. The third concerns current state of ecosystem services as a scientific approach; arguments regarding methodology and procedure. [footnoteRef:22] While these counterarguments raise interesting concerns, (they actually strengthen the stance/ broaden scope/ emphasize the far reaching effects? – concluding sentence) [22: Ecosystem services as a contested concept]

Ethical arguments naturally arise when discussing conservation efforts/ (when resources aren’t limitless/ allocation of limited resources is discussed including in conservation efforts). Are certain species worthier of being saved (than others)? How do we allocate the limited funding? Is it wrong to use anthropocentric motivations to (WORD) support for the environment? The concept of ecosystem services promotes conservation by demonstrating the immense value of nature to humans and (showing) that we should protect nature because it is in our best interest to do so. However, some critics believe this method is too anthropocentric and fails to encompass and/or accurately represent all values generated by ecosystems, specifically, ignoring the intrinsic value of nature. Furthermore, they (state that) strategies are more effective if they are founded on intrinsic rather than anthropocentric values.[footnoteRef:23] (quote) Additionally, it is suggested that the ecosystem services concept encourages and exploitative human-nature relationship.[footnoteRef:24] If we are to monetize each service, “then we are effectively entering nature into a competition with human ingenuity and technology.”[footnoteRef:25]

However, these arguments mischaracterize the ecosystem services concept as only concerning (/including) economic motivations[footnoteRef:26] and (connecting all services to market based instruments). exclusively protecting elements that immediately improve human welfare. As aforementioned, the ecosystem services approach uses a broad definition with services (WORD) four categories, notably, the cultural category includes elements pertaining intrinsic value in addition to other nonmaterial services.[footnoteRef:27] The concept has the ability to reconnect society with nature using cogent anthropocentric arguments[footnoteRef:28] to and expand the support base for conservation.[footnoteRef:29]

Comment by Microsoft Office User: When resources aren’t limitless/ allocation is needed – including environmental conservation efforts Comment by Microsoft Office User: Should I include this or is it redundant? Should I figure out a way to slip in that the support helps the environment? [23: Ecosystem services as a contested concept] [24: ISSUE: Ecosystem services as a contested concept – try to find paper that actually argues this] [25: Steph lecture] [26: The evidence and values underlying ‘new conservation’] [27: Ecosystem services as a contested concept] [28: Ecosystem services as a contested concept] [29: Beyond Resilience ]

The second group of arguments (attempts to discredit) the concept of ecosystem services as a strategy for conservation and sustainable use by setting traditional methods and the ecosystem services approach in opposition. Firstly, it is argued that the ecosystem service approach marginalizes efforts to protect natural ecosystems for non-economic reasons such as aesthetic or moral considerations because the methodology “restricts the focus of conservation to advancement of human well-being, which it frequently conflates with narrow definitions of economic development.”[footnoteRef:30] However, once again, this argument falsely narrows the scope of ecosystem services to only evaluating economic benefits,[footnoteRef:31] failing to note the broad (WORD) of (factors) ecosystem services accounts for. Secondly, it is argued that the ecosystem services approach conflicts with the concept of biodiversity as a conservation objective and can divert resources and attention away from biodiversity conservation.[footnoteRef:32] (WORD), there is increasing evidence to support the hypothesis biodiversity and ecosystem functioning are intimately linked thereby, focusing on conserving ecosystems that provision essential services biodiversity will be (WORD/inherently) conserved.[footnoteRef:33]

However, the main misconception in these conservation strategy based arguments is (that) using ecosystem services as a strategy necessitates that other strategies cannot be used concurrently in decision making.

The purpose of developing the ecosystem services concept is so that it can be used as a tool in conservation in conjunction with traditional methods, to illuminate the positive and negative externalities of ecosystems that are that are unaccounted for by traditional methods, aiding in more informed decision making.

  • Comment by Microsoft Office User: Passive voice Comment by Microsoft Office User: Is this flawed?
  • Comment by Microsoft Office User: Too many strategies?
  • Comment by Microsoft Office User: Should I reference earlier in the paragraph that its for decision making?

What is the future of conservation?

  • Ecosystem services as a contested concept
  • Ecosystem services as a contested concept
  • Ecosystem services as a contested concept

Global estimates of the value of ecosystems and their services in monetary units

The final category of arguments raises concerns about methodology of ecosystem services as a scientific approach. The first argument critiques the vagueness of definition of ecosystem services. Since its conception (it was coined in the 2005 MEA), it has become an umbrella term to describe ecosystem functions or properties, goods, contributions to human welfare, or even economic benefits.[footnoteRef:35] However, this vagueness improves transdisciplinary collaboration[footnoteRef:36] because ration actors from different backgrounds can discuss without agreement on an exact definition.[footnoteRef:37] Additional arguments regarding valuation techniques and inherent uncertainty in preferences and markets highlight practical limitations of the ecosystem services concept. Comment by Microsoft Office User: Maybe add something about the diffuclty or complexity of the task [35: Nahlik et. al 2010 – Ecosystem services as a contested concept] [36: TEEB] [37: Ecosystem services as a contested concept]

Monetary valuation generates useful information, however, it is important to acknowledge that the complex, multidimensional nature of valuation techniques have unresolved limitations. rooted in insufficient knowledge regarding ecosystem function and environmental change, and technical problems in the valuation process.[footnoteRef:38] Preferences are specific to a given individual or groups, the valuation of diverse societies can be a difficult task. [footnoteRef:39] Furthermore, disparities in wealth pose problems because willingness to pay may not be a true indication of preferences[footnoteRef:40] because the economic value of services differs depending on livelihood circumstances.[footnoteRef:41]

Different valuation methods are available and are useful different scenarios, however, values from different valuation methods may not be directly comparable because they may not be measuring using the same economic construct.[footnoteRef:42] In addition, it is sometimes difficult to isolate values for specific services because of the interdependency and complexity of ecosystems, consequently, the aggregation values of services can result in double-counting. [footnoteRef:43] As such, monetary estimates are often possible and effective at local levels, however, cross-level valuation is challenging because we are lacking knowledge and the relevant techniques to apply these estimates to larger scales.[footnoteRef:44] Comment by Microsoft Office User: Different wording? [38: TEEB] [39: TEEB] [40: Cost-benefit analysis in the context of ecosystem services for human well-being] [41: Global estimates of the value of ecosystems and their services in monetary units] [42: Global estimates of the value of ecosystems and their services in monetary units] [43: Global estimates of the value of ecosystems and their services in monetary units] [44: TEEB]

The ecosystem services concept has been applied in several scenarios and been effective in both increasing awareness and support for conservation efforts and providing information to decision makers. It has been used to supplement traditional approaches to (increase) the amount of corporate support. The number of businesses issuing sustainability reports increased from 26 in 1992 to nearly 6000 by 2012. Furthermore, in a 2012 survey of over 4000 business leaders, one quarter of them indicated that they have made efforts to make their businesses more sustainable.[footnoteRef:45] A (WORD/classic/good) example (of the ecosystem services strategy in action/ working) is the Catskill Watershed conservation effort, providing 1.2 billion gallons of clean drinking water to 90% of New York City.[footnoteRef:46]

In the late 1980s NYC was presented with a decision to either to protect the Catskill Watershed, a rural area of farms, forests and small towns located over 125 miles North New York City, from (agricultural development) or to replace it with a filtration facility. Comprehensive calculations of the benefits provided by this watershed and the costs of replacing it indicated that protecting the watershed would be far less expensive than replacing it, furthermore, preserving this land would provide other benefits for both the Catskills and New York City, whereas a filtration facility would only provide clean drinking water.[footnoteRef:47] Comment by Microsoft Office User: Replace with when applied? [45: The evidence and values underlying “new conservation”] [46: How New York City Used an Ecosystem Services Strategy Carried out Through an Urban-Rural Partnership to Preserve the Pristine Quality of Its Drinking Water and Save Billions of Dollars and What Lessons It Teaches about Using Ecosystem Services] [47: How NYC Used an Ecosystem Services Strategy]

There are numerous examples like the Catskill Watershed, where economic valuation has provided useful information in decision making that has preserved services while concurrently protecting valuable ecosystems. It has done an excellent job raising awareness of the value of ecosystems to human wellbeing, thus increasing incentive for societal actors to participate in conservation efforts. “All ecosystems are shaped by people, directly or indirectly and all people, rich or poor, rural or urban, depend on the capacity of ecosystems to generate ecosystem services.”[footnoteRef:48] It is in all of our best interests to protect ecosystems, and traditional methods have not provided the amount of support needed to match the magnitude of human (induced change) on the environment. Ecosystem services is a practical method that provides useful benefits, and in conjunction with other methods can have a (WORD) impact on our conservation efforts. Finally, it should be emphasized that although we can monetize the values of ecosystem services, these services are public goods this concept should not be used as a method enable privatization.

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The Detrimental Effects of Environmental Change. (2022, May 02). Retrieved from

The Detrimental Effects of Environmental Change
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