The valuation of aquatic and related terrestrial ecosystem services inevitably involves investigator judgments and some amount of uncertainty. Although unavoidable, uncertainty and the need to exercise professional judgment are not debilitating to ecosystem valuation. It is important to be clear however when such judgments are made, to explain why they are needed, and to indicate the alternative ways in which judgment could have been exercised. It is also important that the sources of uncertainty be acknowledged, minimized, and accounted for in ways that ensure that a study’s results and related decisions regarding ecosystem valuation are not systematically biased and do not convey a false sense of precision.
There are several cases in which investigators have to use professional judgment in ecosystem valuation regarding how to frame a valuation study, how to address the methodological judgments that must be made during the study, and how to use peer review to identify and evaluate these judgments. Of these, perhaps the most important choice in any ecosystem services valuation study is the selection of the question to be asked and addressed (i.e., framing the valuation study). The case studies discussed in this chapter illustrate the fact that the policy context unavoidably affects the framing of an ecosystem valuation study and therefore the type and level of analysis needed to answer it. Framing also affects the way in which people respond to any given issue. Analysts need to be aware of this and sensitive to the different ways of presenting data and issues and make a serious attempt to address all perspectives in their presentations because failure to do so could undermine the legitimacy of an ecosystem services valuation study.
In most ecosystem valuation studies, an analyst will be called on to make various methodological judgments about how the study should be designed and conducted. Typically, these will address issues such as whether, and at what rate, future benefits and costs should be discounted; whether to value goods and services by what people are willing to pay or what they would be willing to accept if these goods and services were reduced or lost; and how to account for and present distributional issues arising from possible policy measures. In many cases, different choices regarding some of these issues will make a substantial difference to the final valuation.
The unavoidable need to make professional judgments in ecosystem valuation activities through choices of framing and methods suggests that there is a strong case for peer review to provide input on these issues before study design is complete and relatively unchangeable. There are several major sources of uncertainty in the valuation of aquatic ecosystem services and options for the way policymakers and analysts can and should respond. Model uncertainty arises for the obvious reason that in many cases the relationships between certain key variables are not known with certainty (i.e., the “true model” will not be known). Chapter 3 discusses the relationship between ecological structure and function and the provision of aquatic ecosystem goods and services to the com-