Jennifer Morris: Understanding Ecosystem Services | Summary and Q&A

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April 28, 2011
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Stanford eCorner
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Jennifer Morris: Understanding Ecosystem Services

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Summary

In this video, the speaker discusses the concept of ecosystem services and the importance of quantifying them. Ecosystem services are the services provided by our planet that are critical for both the planet's functioning and human well-being. Examples of ecosystem services include water, carbon and climate regulation, food, and health. The speaker emphasizes the need to quantify these services in monetary terms in order to fully appreciate their value. The video also explores the idea of accounting for nature and incorporating the value of ecosystem services into economic measures such as GDP.

Questions & Answers

Q: What are ecosystem services?

Ecosystem services are the critical services provided by our planet that are essential for both its functioning and human well-being. They encompass things like water, carbon and climate regulation, food, and health.

Q: Why is it important to quantify ecosystem services?

Quantifying ecosystem services allows us to assign a monetary value to them, which helps in understanding their true importance and impact. It goes beyond just recognizing the significance of services like water or pollination and allows us to appreciate their economic value as well.

Q: Can you provide examples of quantified ecosystem services?

One example is pollination, where natural pollinators like insects and birds contribute about $190 billion a year in value to agriculture. Another example is the pharmaceutical industry, where 80% to 85% of all drugs on the market are derived from naturally-derived genetic resources, representing significant economic value.

Q: What is the concept of accounting for nature?

Accounting for nature involves incorporating the value of ecosystem services into economic measures such as GDP. It suggests the need to move away from solely assessing gross domestic products and instead develop metrics that consider the value of services like water, pollinators, and carbon stored in forests.

Q: What challenges are associated with incorporating the value of externalities?

The main challenge is the difficulty in quantifying and measuring the value of ecosystem services and externalities. Without accurate measurement and inclusion in accounting systems, these services are often undervalued or overlooked. This creates a barrier to fully appreciating and accounting for their significance.

Q: What is the current effort in relation to the value of externalities?

Countries and companies are starting to recognize the need to include the value of externalities in their balance sheets, GDPs, or company accounts. However, this is still a new venture and more progress is needed to move from good accounting to the creation of actual markets that incorporate these values.

Q: What is the ultimate goal in terms of ecosystem services and markets?

The ultimate goal is to achieve a market transformation where the value of externalities and provisioning services is fully incorporated into markets. It is not just about addressing the increasing costs of inputs but also about changing how we think about and value goods and services in relation to ecosystem services.

Takeaways

The video highlights the importance of quantifying ecosystem services and incorporating their economic value. By assigning monetary value to services like pollination and natural genetic resources, we can better understand their significance in our society. The concept of accounting for nature seeks to include the value of these services in economic measures like GDP, promoting a fuller understanding of the importance of the natural environment. However, challenges exist in accurately quantifying and measuring these services, and further progress is needed to fully incorporate their value into markets. Ultimately, the goal is to bring about a market transformation that fully recognizes and incorporates the value of ecosystem services into how we think about and value goods and services.

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