Unless it is understood clearly that valuing a single ecosystem service represents only a partial valuation of the natural processes in an ecosystem, such single service valuation exercises may provide a false signal of total value.

  • Even when the goal of a valuation exercise is focused on a single ecosystem service, a workable understanding of the functioning of large parts or possibly the entire ecosystem may be required.

  • Although valuation of multiple ecosystem services is more difficult than valuation of a single ecosystem service, interconnections among services may make it necessary to expand the scope of the analysis.

  • Ecosystem processes are often spatially linked, especially in aquatic ecosystems. Full accounting of the consequences of actions on the value of ecosystem services requires understanding these spatial links and undertaking integrated studies at suitably large spatial scales to fully cover important effects. In generating estimates of the value of ecosystem services across larger spatial scales, extrapolation may be unavoidable but should be applied with careful scrutiny.

  • The value of ecosystem services depends on underlying conditions. Ecosystem valuation studies should clearly present assumptions about underlying ecosystem and market conditions and how estimates of value could change with changes in these underlying conditions.

Building on these preceding conclusions, the committee provides the following recommendations:

  • There is no perfect answer to questions about the proper scale and scope of analysis in ecosystem services valuation. Decisions about the scope and scale of analysis should be dictated by a clearly defined policy question.

  • Estimates of value should be placed in context. Assumptions about conditions in ecosystems outside the ecosystem of interest should be clearly specified. Assumptions about human behavior and institutions should be clearly specified.

  • Concerted efforts should be made to overcome existing institutional barriers that prevent ready and effective collaboration among ecologists and economists regarding the valuation of aquatic and related terrestrial ecosystem services. Furthermore, existing and future interdisciplinary programs aimed at integrated environmental analysis should be encouraged and supported.


Abbott, P.L. 1975. On the hydrology of the Edwards Limestone, south-central Texas. Journal of Hydrology 24(3/4):251-269.

Acharya, G., and E.B. Barbier. 2000. Valuing groundwater recharge through agricultural production in the Hadejia-Jama’are wetlands in Northern Nigeria. Agricultural Economics 22: 247-259.

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