Research Article

Bringing Ecosystem Services into Economic Decision-Making: Land Use in the United Kingdom

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Science  05 Jul 2013:
Vol. 341, Issue 6141, pp. 45-50
DOI: 10.1126/science.1234379

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Monitoring Land Use

Land-use decisions are based largely on agricultural market values. However, such decisions can lead to losses of ecosystem services, such as the provision of wildlife habitat or recreational space, the magnitude of which may overwhelm any market agricultural benefits. In a research project forming part of the UK National Ecosystem Assessment, Bateman et al. (p. 45) estimate the value of these net losses. Policies that recognize the diversity and complexity of the natural environment can target changes to different areas so as to radically improve land use in terms of agriculture and greenhouse gas emissions, recreation, and wild species habitat and diversity.


Landscapes generate a wide range of valuable ecosystem services, yet land-use decisions often ignore the value of these services. Using the example of the United Kingdom, we show the significance of land-use change not only for agricultural production but also for emissions and sequestration of greenhouse gases, open-access recreational visits, urban green space, and wild-species diversity. We use spatially explicit models in conjunction with valuation methods to estimate comparable economic values for these services, taking account of climate change impacts. We show that, although decisions that focus solely on agriculture reduce overall ecosystem service values, highly significant value increases can be obtained from targeted planning by incorporating all potential services and their values and that this approach also conserves wild-species diversity.

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