Money may not grow on trees, but trees themselves and all that they provide have a dollar value nonetheless.
At least, that’s the view of those seeking to quantify the myriad ways humankind benefits from nature’s ecosystem services: clean air and water, food, even paper from trees. But it’s complicated.
What financial value should be ascribed to, say, plants that improve water quality or wetlands that reduce flooding and property damage from storms? Many ecology and conservation organizations advocate for making such determinations in the interest of land management. Conservation biologists, meanwhile, argue that putting a price tag on nature could weaken the protection of threatened species that have a lower dollar value.
Therein lies the core issue in the debate: To what degree will biodiversity be protected by managing for ecosystem services?
To address this question, a team of UC Santa Barbara researchers has developed a new modeling framework that blends a novel mix of ecology and economics. Their findings appear in the journal Ecology Letters.