Challenges for valuing ecosystem services from an Indigenous estate in northern Australia

Kamaljit K. Sangha, Jeremy Russell-Smith, Scott C. Morrison, Robert Costanza, Andrew Edwards

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    Abstract

    Recent Australian government policy for developing northern Australia applies a standard financial approach that disregards the importance of Ecosystem Services (ES), and the significance of associated socio-cultural benefits of ES for the wellbeing of Indigenous people who constitute the majority of the regional rural population. First, we assess available ES valuation methods for estimating non-market and market values of ES from an Indigenous estate, Fish River Station (FRS), representative of ‘typical’ regional savannas. Second, we estimate the direct (fire and weed management) and indirect (foregone income from pastoral enterprise) costs associated with maintaining those services. For valuation of ES, we applied a conventional Basic Value Transfer technique using global databases including available regional studies—providing valuations of USD 286 and 84 M y−1, respectively. However, constituent studies used in these valuations had limited relevance to both the ecosystems and socio-cultural contexts of our study. For evaluating Indigenous socio-ecological benefits of ES, estimated conservatively at USD 2.21 M y−1, we applied a local wellbeing valuation technique. The minimum costs required to maintain ES flows were estimated as USD 5.6 ha−1 y−1. Our study illustrates that, to better inform regional development policy, significant challenges remain for appropriate valuation of ES from north Australian savannas, including recognition of socio-cultural services and wellbeing benefits incorporating Indigenous values.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)167-178
    Number of pages12
    JournalEcosystem Services
    Volume25
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017

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