Valuing ecosystem services - linking ecology and policy

University dissertation from Stockholm : KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Abstract: Ecosystem services constitute a precondition for human welfare and survival. This concept has also become increasingly popular among both scientists and policymakers. Several initiatives have been taken to identify and value ecosystem services. Several services are threatened, and it has been concluded that in order to better manage ecosystem services they need to be further investigated and valued. By measuring them using a common metric—monetary value—they can be more easily compared and included in decision-making tools. This thesis contributes to this goal by presenting values for several ecosystem services and also including them in decision-making tools.Starting with a discussion of the concept of ecosystem services, this thesis aims to present values for certain ecosystem services and to illustrate the use of these values in systems-analysis tools such as cost-benefit analyses (CBA) and a weighting set. Links between ecology, economics and policy are discussed within a broader framework of ecosystem services. Five papers are included, in which two contingent valuation studies (CV) have been used to find values for different ecosystem services. One valuation study is focused on the effects from tributyltin (TBT) in Swedish marine waters. In addition, a quantitative assessment framework has been developed in order to simplify analysis of environmental status, progress in environmental surveillance and the relevance of different measures. It is suggested that the framework should also be used when assessing the impacts of other substances affecting the environment. The second valuation study investigates the risk of an oil spill in northern Norway. The results have been included in two CBAs and a weighting set. The first CBA compares costs for remediation of polluted sediments, caused by TBT, with the benefits of reducing TBT levels. The second CBA compares costs and benefits for reducing the probability of an oil spill. The weighting set includes monetary values on a number of impact categories where marine toxicity is based on the valuation study on TBT.  One study also examines the inclusion of environmental costs in life cycle costing (LCC) in different sectors in Sweden.Results show that respondents consider ecosystem values to be important. The values of Swedish marine waters and coastal areas outside Lofoten-Vesterålen in Norway have been identified and quantified in terms of biodiversity, habitat, recreation and scenery. In the Norwegian case, an ongoing debate on the issue of oil and gas exploration has had an impact on the number of protest bids found in the study.Based on the cost and benefits of limiting impacts on ecosystem services derived from the valuation studies, CBAs show that the suggested measures are most likely beneficial for society, and the results contribute to policy recommendations. A weighting set has been updated with new values through value transfer. The weighting set is compatible with LCA. The final study shows that companies and public organisations use environmental costs (internal and external) in a limited manner.In this thesis the ecosystem service concept is used both as an introduction and a guiding thread for the reader, as a way to frame the studies undertaken. The concept of ecosystem services can be useful, as it emphasises the importance of the services to humans. By finding and presenting values of ecosystem services, such services are more easily incorporated into decision-making.