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    Author(s): Rex H. Schaberg; Michael G. Jacobson; Frederick W. Cubbage; Robert C. Abt
    Date: 1995
    Source: SCFER Working Paper 81. Research Triangle Park, NC: Southeastern Center for Forest Economics Research: 34 p.
    Publication Series: Miscellaneous Publication
    PDF: View PDF  (101 KB)


    The application of economic tools to the challenge of ecosystem management is a process which is still in its early phases. The assumption of nonsubstitutability of goods which is implicit in a goal to sustain specific ecosystems imposes constraints on consumption and utility which are more restrictive than those which would occur in standard neoclassical analysis. Also, understanding the nature of ecosystem "goods" is complicated by the fact that the ecosystem is sometimes an input in the production of a desired good, while at other times the ecosystem itself is the good. Further, when the ecosystem is an input in some ecological production function which provides a desired product (e.g., streams as a means of producing trout), it is generally the case that the production function is not well understood and/or is believed to have a large stochastic component. When this is true, the production effects of changes in the input are highly uncertain (e.g., efforts to increase trout stocks by manipulating the quantity of large woody debris in a stream reach may or may not have the predicted effect). A final complexity is introduced by the strong likelihood that much of the value of ecosystems resides in "existence values" such as option value for future use or bequest value to future generations. This suggests that the values are not only unpriced, but also not directly observable in the behavior of the current generation of consumers. While these are formidable difficulties, they do not diminish the importance of a role for economics. Ecosystem management exists in large measure because classes of environmental assets are perceived as currently or potentially scarce. Economics provides an analytic structure for evaluating the efficient allocation of scarce resources. It is also critically important to find a quantifiable and explicit method of addressing the resource tradeoffs which will necessarily occur under ecosystem management. In these areas optimization techniques, contingent valuation, and other survey techniques may prove to be of considerable use. While a definitive measure of "value" for environmental resources may prove intractable, economic tools may still yield significant insights into service levels desired by the public and into tradeoff preferences between mutually exclusive goals.

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    Schaberg, Rex H.; Jacobson, Michael G.; Cubbage, Frederick W.; Abt, Robert C. 1995. Ecosystem management and economics: a review document prepared as part of the Wine Springs Creek ecosystem management project. SCFER Working Paper 81. Research Triangle Park, NC: Southeastern Center for Forest Economics Research: 34 p.


    ecosystem management, contingent valuation, forest economics, existence value

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