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Rudolf de Groot

Role of ecosystem services in sustaining forest landscapes: ecological and economic considerations


Keynote for the IUFRO Landscape Ecology Conference “Sustaining ecosystem services in forest landscapes”, 23-30 August 2015, Tartu, Estonia


Forests provide a wide range of services, many of which are of fundamental importance to our health, livelihood, economy and general well-being. Yet, despite national regulations and international commitments, degradation of forest ecosystems, fragmentation of landscapes and loss of biodiversity continue on a large scale which undermines the functioning and resilience of our landscapes.

In addition to the environmental and social costs, ecosystem and landscape degradation has huge economic costs: a recent publication estimated the damage, mitigation and repair costs associated with the loss of ecosystem services globally between 4 – 20 trillion US$/year (Costanza et al, 2014).


This presentation will briefly reflect upon the underlying ecological and economic concepts and debates, referring among others to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment  ( and the TEEB-study on “The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity”  (


Examples will be provided how the ecosystem services concept can help in practice to analyse trade-offs in land use change in a more balanced way to achieve more sustainable (forest) landscapes.


An important conclusion is that money spent on nature (and forest) conservation and restoration should not be seen as a ‘cost’ but as an investment that generates high economic returns, in addition to ecological and socio-cultural benefits, provided  we are honest about all the externalities involved.


For more information see:


Costanza, Robert., Rudolf de Groot, Paul Sutton, Sander van der Ploeg, Sharolyn J. Anderson, Ida Kubiszewski, Stephen Farber, R.Kerry Turner. 2014. Changes in the global value of ecosystem services. Global Environmental Change 26 (2014): 152-158