Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Ecosystem services are the benefits people obtain from ecosystems. Ecosystem service valuation (ESV) is the process of assessing the contributions of ecosystem services to human well-being. Its goal is to express the effects of changes in ecosystem services in terms of trade-offs against other things that also support human welfare. Ecologists tend to use biophysical-based methods while economists have developed preference-based tools for ESV. In this dissertation I attempt to bridge these two worlds by writing six papers using methods and insights from both disciplines. In paper 1, my coauthors and I (thereafter “we”) reviewed (1) what has been done in ESV research in the last 45 years; (2) how it has been used in ecosystem management; and (3) prospects for the future. One conclusion is that researchers and practitioners will have to transcend disciplinary boundaries and synthesize methodologies and tools from various disciplines in order to meet the challenge of ecosystem service valuation and management. Ninety-four peer-reviewed environmental economic studies were used to value ecosystem services in the State of New Jersey in paper 2. We translated each benefit estimate into 2004 US dollars per acre per year, computed the average value for a given eco-service for a given ecosystem type, and multiplied the average by the total statewide acreage for that ecosystem. The total value of these ecosystem services was estimated as $11.6 billion/year and we believe that this result is conservative. This aggregate value of New Jersey’s ecosystem services is a useful, albeit imperfect, basis for assessing and comparing these services with conventional economic goods and services. In paper 3 we present a conceptual framework for non-market valuation of ecosystem services provided by coastal and marine systems and review the peer-reviewed literature in this area. Next we selected a subset of this literature and conducted the first meta-analysis of the ecosystem service values provided by the costal and nearshore marine systems in paper 4. Using regression we found that over 75% of the variation in willingness to pay (WTP) for coastal ecosystem services could be explained. Our metaregression models also predicted out-of-sample WTPs and showed that the overall average transfer error was 24%, with 40% of the sample having transfer errors of 10% or less, and only 2.5% of predictions having transfer errors of over 100%. In the final two papers our focus is on the linkage between biodiversity and ecosystem function (BEF) which connects ecosystems with human welfare. In paper 5 we first present an overview of the main concepts and findings from a decade of the BEF literature. After a discussion on how agrobiodiversity relates to stability and resilience in agricultural systems at both the species and the landscape scales, we conclude with observations on the research needs in assessing the BEF relationship and the implications for agrobiodiversity ESV research. Finally, in paper 6, by using multiple regression analysis at the site and ecoregion scales in North America, we estimated relationships between biodiversity (using plant species richness as a proxy) and Net Primary Production (NPP, as a proxy for ecosystem services). We tentatively conclude that a 1% change in biodiversity in the high temperature range (which includes most of the world’s biodiversity) corresponds to approximately a 1/2% change in the value estimate of ecosystem services.
Liu, Shuang, "Valuing Ecosystem Services:" (2007). Graduate College Dissertations and Theses. 139.