How (not) to perform ecosystem service valuations: pricing gorillas in the mist

Boeraeve Fanny, Nicolas Dendoncker, Jacobs Sander, Gómez Baggethun Erik, Dufrêne Marc

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Monetary valuation of ecosystem services (ES) is gaining growing interest in scientific papers, policies and awareness-raising documents for its potential as a communication tool illustrating the societal importance of biodiversity. However, simultaneously, its limitations are increasingly discussed in the literature. In this paper we argue that monetary valuation of ES should be seen as representing only one component of ES valuations. We provide basic standards to ensure integrated approaches to ES valuation that can effectively contribute to preserving cultural and biological diversity by acknowledging boundaries to resource exploitation and by building on the various interests and socio-cultural values of involved stakeholders. We base our discussion on a recent study that assesses the economic value of the world-famous Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, home to some of the last mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei). We alert against some ES monetary valuation that narrowly frames biodiversity conservation in terms of economic calculus and argue that subjugating conservation efforts to profit logics downplays the importance of intrinsic, symbolic and other non-economic values of biodiversity. We conclude by providing principles and methodological guidelines to enhance ES valuation as a tool to promote awareness rising for biodiversity conservation through the understanding the overall importance of biodiversity for human societies.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)187-197
    Number of pages11
    JournalBiodiversity and Conservation
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


    • Biocultural diversity
    • Biodiversity conservation
    • Ecosystem services
    • Integrated valuation
    • Natural resource management
    • Value pluralism

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