Valuing forest ecosystem services: What we know and what we don't

K. N. Ninan*, Makoto Inoue

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

137 Citations (Scopus)


Ecosystem services valuation has achieved considerable prominence in research and policy circles in recent years. This paper reviews the studies that have tried to estimate the value of forest ecosystem services. Broadly, this study addresses the following questions: (1) What insights do these studies provide on the value of forest ecosystems? (2) What lessons do they offer from an economic and policy perspective? (3) What are the shortcomings of the existing studies, and what are the challenges and issues for future research? Evidence from a cross section of forest sites, countries and regions suggests that not only the total valuation of ecosystem services varies widely across studies but also the valuation of individual services. This variation suggests that policies to conserve ecosystems and their services should emphasise local contexts and values. This paper concludes by discussing the shortcomings of existing studies, and suggests that, among other things, future research should focus on the neglected ecosystem services, 'disservices', assess the role of dynamic factors and environmental catastrophes on the provision of ecosystem services, and assess the benefits of keeping forests intact versus converting them to alternative uses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-149
Number of pages13
JournalEcological Economics
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Carbon sequestration
  • Economic valuation
  • Forest ecosystem services
  • Recreation benefits
  • Soil conservation
  • Watershed protection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Economics and Econometrics


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