The nexus of ecosystem services and ethics

Ideas for Sustainability

By Joern Fischer

Recommendation of Ecosystem services and ethics, Jax K, Barton D, Chan K, de Groot R and others, Ecological Economics 2013 Sep; 93:260-268

Like few other concepts, the concept of ecosystem services has captured the attention of scholars, conservationists, resource managers and policy makers. It has also facilitated integration across academic disciplines, especially ecology and economics.

Despite these successes, some remain critical of the ecosystem services concept, most importantly because they fear it may foster the commodification of nature (McCauley 2006); instead of appreciating nature for its inherent values. Opinions often appear to be divided – some researchers are strongly in favor of the ecosystem services concept, including monetary valuation, whereas some are strongly against it for “ethical reasons”.

Many leading researchers on ecosystem services have recognized for a long time that the situation is more complex than this. A polarized view of commodification versus ethics is neither helpful, nor…

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