One such trade-off occurs in a much larger lake system: the Great Lakes. The St. Lawrence Seaway provides an access route to ship goods from the Atlantic Ocean to the central U.S. and Canada, but also increases the likelihood of non-native species invading the lakes by hitching a ride in ships' ballast water. Since the 1959 opening of the Seaway, an estimated 57 plant and animal species have been introduced to the lakes by shipping. John Rothlisberger, a graduate student at the University of Notre Dame, surveyed experts in the fields of ecology, fisheries biology and environmental management to put a price tag on the damage done by these invasive species.
Rothlisberger notes that unlike his survey method, traditional biodiversity studies focusing on high-profile species have limited economic usefulness because they can't be extrapolated to a broad scale. His novel approach shows that in 2006, the lakes sustained hundreds of millions of dollars in estimated losses to commercial and recreational fishing.
"We often wring our hands trying to figure out how to put values on ecosystem services," he says. "We hope policy makers will take notice that there are costs associated with these economic activities that haven't been accounted for previously."
While a graduate student at Stanford University, Rebecca Goldman also wanted to understand the implications of ecosystem service approaches, but from the perspective of stakeholder donations. She found that in the Western Hemisphere, ecosystem services projects receive on average four times more money from corporations than do their traditional biodiversity counterparts, making them much more economically viable. Further, because ecosystem services programs have a tangible impact on people's lives, they also tend to recruit and integrate more interested parties.
"Ecosystem services projects
|Contact: Christine Buckley|
Ecological Society of America