Economic Incentives for the Nonregulatory Conservation and Management of Wetlands
The Ramsar Convention defines wetlands as: “areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six metres” (article 1.1). Many of the ecosystem services provided by these diverse wetlands are public goods. This means that the goods are not saleable in normal markets constituting willing buyers and sellers. Furthermore, since beneficiaries cannot be excluded from deriving benefits from wetland ecosystem services, they have no incentive to pay. Equally, if the resource owner (“seller”) cannot sell the service, they also lack an incentive to maintain a supply of publicly beneficial services. Thus, since many wetlands are private as distinct from public property, there is no compelling market incentive to prevent the owner draining or in other senses destructively employing the wetland to maximize private profit. There is an emerging political preference for ‘payment for ecosystem services’-type approaches to ecosystem management as a means to encourage value realization from the ecosystem services provided by wetlands and other habitats, many of which have historically been omitted from both markets and wider societal decision-making.
KeywordsPayments for ecosystem services Market failure Ecosystem services Purification processes Systemic solutions Optimization Offsetting Club goods
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