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Invasion science, ecology and economics: seeking roads not taken

October 8, 2011 Comments off

Invasion science, ecology and economics: seeking roads not taken
Source: NeoBiota

There are two recent multi-author books that show the extent and variety of the interaction of economics with invasion science (Keller et al. 2009, Perrings et al. 2010) and also the variety of approaches to tackling these problems, though in this field models are almost always important. Both books also cover management and policy. As any manager knows, finance, either explicit in income or implicit from volunteers etc., determines what can be done and which problems can be tackled. But economics is about much more than costs. Economic analysis and theory are important in developing policy for dealing with invasive problems and serve as motivators for both the public and private sector to take action.

The ecological and economic dimensions of the problem of invasive species are connected at different levels. Many of the changes that lead ecosystems to be more vulnerable to the impact of invasives (e.g. fragmentation, disturbance, loss of diversity, pollution) are direct consequences of economic behaviour. The ecological mechanisms affecting invasives, such as functional diversity and dispersion, are correlated with trade, transport and travel. The consequences of the reduction in ecosystem functionality and the ability to provide ecological services have direct implications for the value of the output and ecological capital of the system.

At every level, the ecological impacts of economic activities are incidental to and usually ignored by the actors concerned. These impacts are externalities of the market transactions; they are not taken seriously by those making the transactions perhaps because they are not held legally responsible for the impacts nor are the markets directly affected by these impacts. Instead these impacts are often borne by those who receive little or no benefit from the market transactions. In addition, quantifying some ecosystem services (and disservices) is difficult and approaches to do so vary necessarily by scale, type of service, and region (Meyerson et al. 2005). Therefore, the major economic problems of invasions are first to understand the nature of invasive species externalities, second to evaluate the consequences they have for well-being, and third to develop policies and instruments for their internalisation.

See: Market Transactions and Economics in General Affect Biological Invasions (Science Daily)

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