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Monday, August 7, 2006

Craig on Coastal and Ocean Ecosystem Serices

Robin Kundis Craig (Florida State University College of Law) has posted Valuing Coastal and Ocean Ecosystem Services: The Paradox of Scarcity for Marine Resources Commodities and the Potential Role of Lifestyle Value Competition on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

Ocean and coastal ecosystems provide about two-thirds of the ecosystem services that make up the world's natural capital. Despite that fact, the political will to adequately protect these marine ecosystems in marine protected areas and marine reserves generally does not exist. Instead, regulation focuses where the markets focus: on commercial commodities demands for ocean and coastal resources. This traditional commodities-focused market-and-regulatory regime has proven inadequate to protect functional marine ecosystems, as the history of wetlands loss and fishery regulation failure makes clear.

This paper argues that neither the commodities market nor a private property regime is likely to strengthen the political will to protect and preserve marine ecosystems as a whole. Nor, given the paradigm of inexhaustibility, the failure to perceive marine resources as scarce, and the lack of public understanding about the importance of marine ecosystem services, is strengthened political will likely to follow from the numerous scientific recommendations that the United States protect about 20 percent of its ocean resources in marine protected areas and marine reserves.

Instead, this paper explores the potential of new markets for the lifestyle values of marine resources amenities to serve as proxy for a direct public demand for intact and functional marine ecosystems. Specifically, the paper argues that new consumer demands for recreational opportunities, tourism, and eco-living may provide sufficient use competition -- specifically, competition between commodities and amenities users -- to translate the new economic demands into a political will to better protect marine ecosystems and the services that they provide.

I've noted before that I think that the ecosystem services approach provides an important perspective for considering land-use and natural-resources issues.  Oceans present uniquely difficult problems in this area, both because of international law and because many ocean-based natural resources (at least the living ones) move around during their life cycles.  Craig's paper is an important contribution to the discussion of these issues.

Ben Barros

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