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How (not) to perform ecosystem service valuations: pricing gorillas in the mist

An Erratum to this article was published on 11 November 2014

Abstract

Monetary valuation of ecosystem services (ES) is gaining growing interest in scientific papers, policies and awareness-raising documents for its potential as a communication tool illustrating the societal importance of biodiversity. However, simultaneously, its limitations are increasingly discussed in the literature. In this paper we argue that monetary valuation of ES should be seen as representing only one component of ES valuations. We provide basic standards to ensure integrated approaches to ES valuation that can effectively contribute to preserving cultural and biological diversity by acknowledging boundaries to resource exploitation and by building on the various interests and socio-cultural values of involved stakeholders. We base our discussion on a recent study that assesses the economic value of the world-famous Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, home to some of the last mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei). We alert against some ES monetary valuation that narrowly frames biodiversity conservation in terms of economic calculus and argue that subjugating conservation efforts to profit logics downplays the importance of intrinsic, symbolic and other non-economic values of biodiversity. We conclude by providing principles and methodological guidelines to enhance ES valuation as a tool to promote awareness rising for biodiversity conservation through the understanding the overall importance of biodiversity for human societies.

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Acknowledgments

We acknowledge the work done by our World Wildlife Fund fellows regarding biodiversity conservation and we hope our paper will support them in their fight against the destruction of the Virunga Park and its mountain gorillas. Additionally, we thank our colleagues in our respective research departments for helpful discussions and the insightful recommendations of two anonymous referees. We moreover acknowledge the contribution of colleagues present on site who answered our questions on local conditions.

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Correspondence to Boeraeve Fanny.

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Communicated by David Hawksworth.

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Fanny, B., Nicolas, D., Sander, J. et al. How (not) to perform ecosystem service valuations: pricing gorillas in the mist . Biodivers Conserv 24, 187–197 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-014-0796-1

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Keywords

  • Biodiversity conservation
  • Ecosystem services
  • Biocultural diversity
  • Natural resource management
  • Integrated valuation
  • Value pluralism