29.5 A common ecosystemic currency for assessing regional tradeoffs in ecosystem services

Martin Köchy , Vegetation Ecology and Nature Conservation, Universität Potsdam - University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany
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  • For a long time humans have relied on the free services of ecosystems for their food, clothing, and housing. Unrestricted use of ecosystem services (ESS), however, is not sustainable. This has led to regulations that limit the use of ESS. Most regulations are directed at industrial users because the use of free resources and services is an economical advantage that leads to overexploitation of these services in typically short-sighted economic competition. As a consequence, there have been attempts to put a monetary value on ESS. Setting a price is difficult because ecosystems are multifunctional, because their function does not scale linearly with area, and because the economic value of their services depends on their regional context. To address these issues, we propose a framework based on three premises. 1. The ESS value must be solely defined by ecological parameters to be globally applicable and independent from economic and political considerations. 2. The ESS value must be simple enough to be determined within the planning time of human impacts. 3. It must be applicable to all ecosystems. Therefore, I suggest to define the ecosystemic value as the product of four core ecosystem properties: biomass, productivity, species diversity, and structure (ratio of productivity to biomass). These properties represent singly or in combination the provision of fiber, food, animal feed, regulation services, and aesthetic values. Each property can be determined easily at the local scale for detailed planning or estimated by remote sensing and expert knowledge at the regional scale for landscape assessments. As a concession to practicability, the four core properties refer to the aboveground parts of vascular plants. For the assessment of the ecosystemic value of an area comprising several ecosystems, one would sum their individual values. Effects of spatial isolation, species migration, disturbances, and environment can be included in the value by considering their effects on the four core properties. In my contribution I will present the sensitivity of the indicator to changes in eutrophication, climate, urbanization, and land use.