Potential of the economic valuation of soil-based ecosystem services to inform sustainable soil management and policy (2020)

Bartkowski B., Bartke S., Helming K., Paul C., Techen A., Hansj├╝rgens B.

PeerJ, 8 (), e8749

doi:10.7717/peerj.8749

Abstract

The concept of ecosystem services, especially in combination with economic valuation, can illuminate trade-offs involved in soil management, policy and governance, and thus support decision making. In this paper, we investigate and highlight the potential and limitations of the economic valuation of soil-based ecosystem services to inform sustainable soil management and policy. We formulate a definition of soil-based ecosystem services as basis for conducting a review of existing soil valuation studies with a focus on the inclusion of ecosystem services and the choice of valuation methods. We find that, so far, the economic valuation of soil-based ecosystem services has covered only a small number of such services and most studies have employed cost-based methods rather than state-of-the-art preference-based valuation methods, even though the latter would better acknowledge the public good character of soil related services. Therefore, the relevance of existing valuation studies for political processes is low. Broadening the spectrum of analyzed ecosystem services as well as using preference-based methods would likely increase the informational quality and policy relevance of valuation results. We point out options for improvement based on recent advances in economic valuation theory and practice. We conclude by investigating the specific roles economic valuation results can play in different phases of the policy-making process, and the specific requirements for its usefulness in this context.