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Socio-economic importance of ecosystem services in the Nordic Countries

Synthesis in the context of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB)

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Nature provides a range of benefits (ecosystem services) that underpin human and socio-economic well-being. Many of these benefits – and the associated economic values – are not acknowledged in decision-making. As a result, nature remains almost invisible in the political and individual choices made. This report presents a synthesis of the socio-economic importance of ecosystem services in the Nordic countries. The study was initiated by the Nordic Council of Ministers (NCM) and the NCM Finnish Presidency in 2011, following in the footsteps of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) initiative. The study reveals that Nordic ecosystems play an integral role in supporting socio-economic wellbeing. However, a number of gaps in the existing information base still need to be addressed to ensure that these benefits are fully integrated into the Nordic decision-making processes.

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Introduction

Nature – while considered to be valuable in and of itself – provides a range of benefits, i.e. so called ecosystem services, that fuel the global economy and underpin human and societal well-being (e.g. MA 2005, Kumar 2010, ten Brink 2011, ten Brink 2012). For example, healthy natural systems regulate our climate, pollinate our crops, prevent soil erosion and protect against natural hazards. They also help to meet our energy needs and offer opportunities for recreation, cultural inspiration and spiritual fulfilment. Nature also underpins our economies, with several economic sectors such as agriculture, fisheries, forestry and tourism depending heavily on biodiversity and ecosystem services. However, many of the benefits provided by nature – and the associated economic values – are not recognised by the markets and remain unacknowledged in decision-making by a range of stakeholders including politicians, administrators, businesses, communities and individuals. In other words, nature is almost invisible in the political and individual choices we make, resulting in us steadily drawing down our natural capital.

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