Status of ecological valuation – Summary of recent commissions, study groups, and workshops.
MUNNS, WAYNE*,1, BRUINS, RANDALL2, 1 U.S. EPA ORD, Narragansett, Rhode Island, USA2 U.S. EPA ORD, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
ABSTRACT- Environmental decision-making in the public and private sectors relies on diverse sets of information for evaluation and selection of management options. Included are legal, social, scientific and economic considerations that must be understood and balanced to make choices. Benefit-cost analysis, an important tool supporting decision-making, relies on the monetized value of ecological resources and changes in delivery of goods and services that can result from environmental decisions. Nonmonetary approaches to decision-making such as decision analysis are sometimes used, but these still require ecological values to be quantified in some way. Yet, ecological valuation is a challenging and ofttimes contentious undertaking. Recently, several interdisciplinary discussions have explored the opportunities and constraints to ecological valuation as it supports decision-making. The objective of this presentation is to review the charges and findings of four of these efforts: the NAS projects on Noneconomic and Economic Value of Biodiversity: Applications for Ecosystem Management, and Assessing and Valuing the Services of Aquatic Ecosystems; a recent Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry Pellston workshop on Valuation of Ecological Resources: Integration of Ecological Risk Assessment and Socio-Economics to Support Environmental Decisions; and the U.S. EPA's current planning to inform its ecological benefits research agenda. Each of these activities acknowledges the scientific and social difficulties inherent to ecological valuation. While the market determines the monetized value of ecological commodities that are bought and sold (e.g., timber), establishing the values of non-market uses of ecological systems is challenging. The underlying controversy over monetizing the value of ecological systems, goods, and services also impedes progress. These challenges will need to be overcome if ecological values are to be used to inform individual and societal choices.
Key words: environmental decision-making, ecological valuation
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