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Valuing Forest Ecosystem Services

A Training Manual for Planners and Project Developers

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The aim of this manual is to enhance understanding of ecosystem services and their valuation. The specific target group comprises governmental officers in planning units and field-level officers and practitioners in key government departments in Bangladesh responsible for project development, including the Ministry of Environment and Forests and its agencies. Most of the examples and case studies presented herein, therefore, are tailored to the Bangladesh context, but the general concepts, approaches and methods can be applied to a broad spectrum of situations. This manual focuses on valuing forest-related ecosystem services, including those provided by trees outside forests. It is expected to improve valuation efforts and help ensure the better use of such values in policymaking and decision making.

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Held and assigned values

The distinction between “held” and “assigned” values (Daily, 1997; Adamowicz et al., 1998) is crucial for understanding the valuation of ecosystem services. Held values represent ideals of what is desirable, how things ought to be, and how one should interact with the world (Barr et al., 2010). People, for example, normally value their own health, and this is a held value. People may also have held values related to environmental resources: for example, one might think that the protection and conservation of natural resources is important and desirable behaviour. Assigned values express the relative importance (or worth) of an object to an individual or group in a given context (Brown, 1984). It is not a characteristic of an object itself; rather, it expresses the importance of an object relative to other objects and in a given context. Assigned values depend on a number of factors, including people’s perception of the object, people’s own held values, and the context (e.g. in socio-economic, environmental and cultural terms). Market prices, for example, constitute an assigned value that is thought to change with market conditions. In a similar way, one might attach a certain assigned value to a forest that is better conserved and hosts a larger number of native species than another; or to water-quality A, which is better than water-quality B. The object to which the value is attached, in these cases, is the change in condition (e.g. the number of native species, or water quality). Assigned values can be influenced by held values based on morals and preferences and are less (or more slowly) transient. Broader underlying value systems may exist; for example, people may value certain forests for cultural (e.g. religious or spiritual) purposes and may be unwilling to translate these values into monetary terms. In such cases, the quantitative values assigned may be incomplete measures of the multidimensional sources of human welfare (Jones et al., 2016).

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