Concerns about the use of ecosystem services as a tool for nature conservation: From misleading concepts to providing a “price” for nature, but not a “value”

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Abstract

1. By definition, ecosystem services (ES) are the “benefits that people obtain from ecosystems”, and this paradigm has been increasingly used in recent decades in ecological planning, for policy development and environmental management.

2. In this short commentary, we highlight the main criticisms suggested by several scientists against the currently used and abused ecosystem services (ES) approach.

3. We underline how this concept needs a more accurate scientific assessment and theoretical development, repeating that one of the most critical concerns is that this paradigm assigns a “price”, but not a “value” to nature.

4. We also discuss different theoretical concerns, as for example the replacement of natural “resource” by “service” promoted by the ES paradigm thereby changing the implications of such assessments. Conserving resources is essential for survival of several organisms, while conservation of a “service” is mainly related to the human species.

5. Finally, we warn against the mechanism of ‘crowding out’ behind the ES approach, which replaces intrinsic motivations (nature) against extrinsic ones (benefits), highlighting that people do not need to attach different values to ecosystems (monetary, cultural, aesthetic, etc.) to understand the value of nature.

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