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Integrating study of humans and the rest of nature..

Integrating study of humans and the rest of nature..

Ecosystems are connected to human well-being in a number of complex ways at multiple time and space scales.

Prof Robert Costanza, ecological economist and Professor of Public Policy at the Crawford School of Public Policy at The Australian National University will discuss the challenge of ecosystem services science (ESS) in understanding and modeling these connections with a range of purposes at the Water NZ conference in Hamilton this morning.

In the keynote address he says these include raising awareness and providing information to decision-makers to allow them to better manage our natural capital assets.

“In order for ecosystem services (the benefits provided to humans by ecosystems) to occur, natural capital (natural ecosystems and their products that do not require human activity to build or maintain) must be combined with other forms of capital that do require human intervention to build and maintain. These include: built or manufactured capital, human capital (e.g., human labor and knowledge); and social capital (e.g., communities and cultures).

“Thus ESS is inherently an integrated, trans-disciplinary science concerned with the way these four forms of capital contribute to human well-being and the synergies and trade-offs among them,” Professor Constanza says.

The process of valuation of ecosystem services is about quantifying and modeling these synergies and trade-offs.

“It requires a deeper understanding of the interconnections among human psychology and decision processes, ecosystem processes and functions, and economic production and consumption processes at multiple time and space scales.

“Water supply, quality, and regulation are among the most important ecosystem services. The challenges of ESS are huge and will require a significantly more trans-disciplinary approach than our current academic institutions are comfortable with.”

But, says Prof Costanza, the payoffs are also huge. Our future depends on making rapid progress in this area.

Dr. Robert Costanza is a Chair in Public Policy at Crawford School of Public Policy. Prior to this, he was Distinguished University Professor of Sustainability, in the Institute for Sustainable Solutions at Portland State University. Before moving to PSU in Sept. 2010, he was the Gund Professor of Ecological Economics and founding director of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont. Before Vermont, he was on the faculty at Maryland and LSU, a visiting scientist at the Beijer Institute in Sweden, and at the Illinois Natural History Survey. Dr. Costanza is also currently a Senior Fellow at the National Council on Science and the Environment, Washington, DC, and a Senior Fellow at the Stockholm Resilience Center, Stockholm, Sweden, and an Affiliate Fellow at the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont

Dr. Costanza's trans-disciplinary research integrates the study of humans and the rest of nature to address research, policy and management issues at multiple time and space scales, from small watersheds to the global system. Dr. Costanza is co-founder and past-president of the International Society for Ecological Economics, and was chief editor of the society's journal, Ecological Economics from its inception in 1989 until 2002. He is founding co-editor (with Karin Limburg and Ida Kubiszewski) of Reviews in Ecological Economics. He currently serves on the editorial board of ten other international academic journals. He is also founding editor in chief of Solutions ( a unique hybrid academic/popular journal.

His awards include a Kellogg National Fellowship, the Society for Conservation Biology Distinguished Achievement Award, a Pew Scholarship in Conservation and the Environment, the Kenneth Boulding Memorial Award for Outstanding Contributions in Ecological Economics, and honorary doctorates from Stockholm University and the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon.

Dr. Costanza is the author or co-author of over 500 scientific papers and 23 books. His work has been cited in more than 11,000 scientific articles and he has been named as one of ISI's Highly Cited Researchers since 2004. More than 200 interviews and reports on his work have appeared in various popular media.


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