UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Building an ecosystem services value at risk conceptual framework for sustainability, efficiency and fairness in resource management : starting values from marine ecosystems Infante, Maria Cristina


The primary research problem addressed in this thesis is the development of a conceptual framework for a novel ecological economics risk measure called “ecosystem services value at risk” to guide sustainability, efficiency and fairness in the human use of natural ecosystems. Ecosystem services value at risk integrates ecosystem services valuation with financial value at risk to provide an estimate of a “worst likely loss” in ecosystem services under alternative policies. This new approach estimates the uncertainty around ecosystem services values from human activities. By framing the risk to ecosystem services in terms of loss, this risk measure conveys a more powerful message about the need to protect nature. The core elements of an ecosystem services value at risk framework are: ecosystem services valuation; total economic value; stochastic ecological resource use models; financial value at risk; intergenerational discounting; society’s time frame for evaluation; and decision rules. This research is multidisciplinary, drawing insights from ecological economics, finance, fisheries economics, ecological modeling and decision analysis. Ecosystem services value at risk is illustrated with marine examples, which are timely and critical. Marine ecosystems, which provide valuable and essential benefits to humankind, are being severely altered all over the world from overfishing, climate change, marine pollution and habitat destruction. The risk measure is shown to be meaningful by applying a stochastic Schaefer surplus production model to a well-studied marine example, Namibian hake. A case study of the collapsed Georges Bank yellowtail flounder further demonstrates its usefulness to marine policy evaluation. A simple risk measure based on the market values of catch provisioning services leads to selecting conservative harvest policies, ruling out high levels of fishing intensity. The non-market values of a second type of ecosystem service, the regulating services from conserved biomass, are next considered. Both values provide a distribution for a lower bound estimate of the ecosystem services value at risk for the marine ecosystem. Including regulating services allows even more precautionary strategies that favor conservation. The ecosystem services value at risk framework thus supports sustainability and ecosystem resilience, promising to help protect the flow of benefits from nature for current and future generations.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada