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Forest ecosystem services – assessment methods

Abstract

Forest ecosystems represent the most important values of natural assets. In economic valuation techniques, to estimate the value of forest ecosystem services, the attention is still focused mainly on their market values, i.e. the value of benefits measured in the economic calculation based, first of all, on the price of timber. The valuation of natural resources is currently supported by considerations of the global policy, in order to strengthen the argumentation justifying the need to incur expenditure related to the protection of biodiversity. There is increasing evidence that biodiversity contributes to forest ecosystem functioning and the provision of ecosystem services. Natural capital of forests can be consumed directly as food, wood and other raw materials or indirectly – by benefitting from purified water and air, safeguarded soils or protected climate. At the same time, forest ecosystems provide us with a range of intangible values – scientific, cultural, religious as well as encompass heritage to pass on to future generations. In the era of increasing pressure on the use of free public goods (natural resources), it is necessary to improve understanding of the role of forests in creating national natural capital, and in enhancing the quality of human life. All things considered, the so called non-market forest ecosystem services may have a much higher value than the profits from the production of timber and raw materials. Needless to say, non-market values of forest ecosystems are of great importance for the quality of human life, and the awareness of this should translate into social behavior in the use of natural resources. This paper reviews the methods to estimate the value of forest ecosystem services in view of recently acknowledged paradigm to move forward from economic production to sustainable human well-being.

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