Evaluating and Predicting Ecosystem Services

Title: Evaluating and Predicting Ecosystem Services
Authors: Kadykalo, Andrew
Date: 2013
Abstract: The valuation of ecosystem services requires first and foremost, that the current level or stock of a service first be estimated. Here, I investigate the relationship between the fields of environmental science and ecological economics in their research effort of ecosystem services and the implications this may have on the ecosystem valuation research program. I investigate two ecological functions described as ecosystem services within specific ecosystem types: the flood control provisioning services of wetlands and pollination service provisioning by pollinator populations in agroecosystems. I examined the environmental literature to provide quantitative estimates of a) the distribution of the level of service delivered as well as b) the ability of environmental scientists to predict this level of service. The results presented here suggest a moderately strong correlation between research efforts in environmental science and ecological economics at the pooled level of ecosystem types and services. I suggest however, an integrated research enterprise between social and environmental scientists may provide greater efficiency by means of a global ecosystem service research network and repository. I found that, on average, consistent with conventional wisdom, wetlands do indeed have a positive effect by reducing the frequency and magnitude of floods, increasing low flows, and increasing water storage. In the same vein, I found on average and consistent with conventional wisdom, there is a consistent and comparatively strong association between pollinator abundance and agroecosystem productivity as inferred from measures of plant fertilization success. In both investigations however, metaregression analysis indicated that our current ability to predict either pollination or flood control services is poor to modest at best. The low predictive power combined with the observed heterogeneity in effect size in both investigations suggest that flood control service delivered by wetlands or pollination services delivered by natural pollinator populations in agroecosystems and the expected changes in the level of services delivered under a candidate management scenario, will have a large uncertainty. Such uncertainty should be explicitly incorporated into estimates of both the current economic value of ecosystem services, as well as estimates of how these values are likely to change under alternative management scenarios. Given these, I suggest that the implications for the development of Market-based instruments (MBIs) or any payment of ecosystem services to conserve ecosystem services: that the associated ecological function(s) must be few and well characterized, and we must agree on what endpoints ought to properly be used to characterize these functions. If this condition is not met, an ordinal ranking is the best we can do and in the absence of obvious enthusiasm for more detailed scientific research which leads to the conclusion that perhaps alternate strategies like command and control may be the better alternative to protect ecosystem services.
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10393/26087
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -