Mainstreaming Natural Capital into Decisions: Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services

Arnas Palaima, Pranas Mierauskas

Abstract


The purpose of the article is to review current paradigms in ecosystem services valuation, existing gaps and current trends in addressing those gaps. Natural capital, often defined as the stock of natural ecosystems that yields a flow of valuable ecosystem goods or services into the future, is often undervalued or not valued at all by governments, business and society, which leads to environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity. One of the major reasons of such undervaluation is the lack of practical, realistic quantitative methods/models that would establish ecosystem services value and its change due to human development. A promising, recently developed ecosystem services modeling system is InVEST: “Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Trade-Offs.” InVEST is a set of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) models that predict the provision and value of ecosystem services and habitat provision given land use/land cover maps and related biophysical, economic, and institutional data for the study region. InVEST, if further developed and applied in a systematic way, could facilitate mainstreaming the natural capital into decisions at all levels and provide a strong foundation for local natural resources managers to improve and optimize their environmental management strategies.

Keywords


ecosystem services; InVEST; GIS; modeling; ecological economics; sustainable environmental management; natural capital

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13165/ST-13-3-1-10

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"Social Technologies" ISSN online 2029-7564