While we don’t tend to think about it, healthy ecosystems provide a variety of critical benefits. Ecosystem goods, the physical items an ecosystem provides, are obvious. Forests provide timber; coastal marshes provide shellfish. While less visible and generally taken for granted, the services underpinning these goods are equally important. Created by the interactions of living organisms with their environment, ecosystem services provide the conditions and processes that sustain human life.1 If you doubt this, consider how to grow an apple without pollination, pest control, or soil fertility. Once one realizes the importance of ecosystem services, three points quickly emerge: (1) landscapes provide a stream of services ranging from water quality and flood control to climate stability—the economic value of which can be significant; (2) the vast majority of these services are public goods and not exchanged in markets, so landowners have little incentive to provide these positive externalities; and (3) we, therefore, need to think creatively about creating markets for these services so they are not under-provided. This is the basis of the policy approach known as Payments for Ecosystem Services (“PES”).
James Salzman, Genevieve Bennett, Nathaniel Carroll, Allie Goldstein & Michael Jenkins,
Payments for Ecosystem Services: Past, Present and Future,
Tex. A&M L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.tamu.edu/lawreview/vol6/iss1/12