Forest Ecosystem Services: Can They Pay Our Way Out of Deforestation?

Many people believe economic techniques can tell us when the benefits of forests outweigh the costs and which forest to clear and which to protect. These same people also frequently assume such studies will prove it is better to protect most forest and that once policymakers realize that the forests will be conserved as a result. Robert Nasi and Sven Wunder of CIFOR and Jose Joaquin Campos from CATIE are not fully convinced. In "Forest Ecosystem Services: Can They Pay Our Way Out of Deforestation?" they argue that in many cases we still know so little about the specific services forests provide that attempting to assess their value in a particular location would take us into the realm of science fiction. They point out that different economic valuation techniques often generate quite distinct results. They also note that such techniques cannot really address the large-scale or long-term consequences of forest loss or the distributional issues concerning who loses and who gains.