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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: July 2013

1 - The economics of ecosystem services and poverty



Ecosystems play a crucial role in the survival and well-being of human beings. Increasing pressure on ecosystems resulting from economic development and population growth has resulted in degrading ecosystems and losses of the services ecosystems provide throughout the world. According to the UN (2010) ‘as a consequence of human actions, species are being lost at a rate estimated to be 100 times the natural rate of extinction. In the past century, 35% of the mangroves, 40% of the forests and 50% of the wetlands have been lost . . . action is urgently needed to avoid reaching critical thresholds that will lead to an irreversible loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services, with dangerous consequences for human well-being’.

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) (2005) was the first to explicitly underline the linkages between ecosystems and human well-being, coining the term ‘ecosystem services’ to stress the important benefits that people derive from ecosystems (MEA 2005). The term ‘Ecosystem Services’ serves as a catalyst to stress the importance of ecosystems for human well-being. As indicated in Figure 1.1, the number of publications using the term has increased exponentially since 2005. Figure 1.1 also shows that most of the publications are in the domain of the natural sciences, with the governance-based sciences somewhat lagging behind.

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Andam, K. S., Ferraro, P. J., Sims, K. R., Healy, A. and Holland, M. (2010). Protected areas reduced poverty in Costa Rica and Thailand. PNAS, 107(22): 9996–10001.
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Bawa, K., Joseph, G. and Setty, S. (2007). Poverty, biodiversity and institutions in forest-agriculture ecotones in the Western Ghats and Eastern Himalaya ranges of India. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 12: 287–295.
Belcher, B, Ruiz-Perez, M. and Achdiawan, R. (2005). Global patterns and trends in the use and management of commercial NTFPs: implications for livelihoods and conservation. World Development, 33(9): 1435–1452.
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Bouma, J. A., Bulte, E. H. and van Soest, D. P. (2008). Trust and cooperation: social capital and community resource management. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 56: 155–166.
Boyce, J. K. (2002). The Political Economy of the Environment. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd.
Brouwer, R. and Akter, S. (2010). Informing micro insurance contract design to mitigate climate change catastrophe risks using choice experiments. Environmental Hazards, 9: 74–88.
Brouwer, R., Tesfaye, A. and Pauw, P. (2011). Meta-analysis of institutional-economic factors explaining the environmental performance of payments for watershed services. Environmental Conservation, 38(4): 1–13.
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Fisher, B. and Cristoph, T. (2007). Poverty and biodiversity: measuring the overlap of human poverty and the biodiversity hotspots. Ecological Economics, 62: 93–101.
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