Issue no. 1 - Winter 2009





by Tim Swanson, University College London, UK

Dear All,

I am writing to welcome you to the first issue of the BIOECON network newsletter kindly hosted, developed and published by FEEM on behalf of the network. BIOECON is a network of social scientists, economists and others interested in the issues relating to biodiversity conservation. Originally it was established as a network of European academic institutions by receipt of a grant from the European Commission under its Fifth Framework programme. Since that time the network has flourished and has developed links to most major biodiversity policy organisations, and conducts an annual research conference on the economics and policy of optimal biodiversity conservation.

The eleventh annual BIOECON conference on biodiversity conservation was held this year in Venice in September 2009. Over one hundred participants presented papers on biodiversity conservation. The keynote speakers at this year's event were Anil Markandya (FEEM) and Edward Barbier (Wyoming). It was agreed to return the event to Venice once again in September 2010.

We wish to acknowledge the support of the European Commission in establishing this important network, the ongoing assistance of FEEM in maintaining this information hub, and the role of each of the partner organisations in continuing this important realm of research. We look forward to the next decade of work under the BIOECON banner.

Tim Swanson



Economic Instruments to Enhance the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity

Venice, Italy, 20-21 September 2009

The 11th Annual BIOECON Conference, held in Venice on 21-22 September 2009, was organised by the Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei in association with Conservation International, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of UK Government, the Department of Economics of Ca' Foscari University of Venice, the Department of Land Economy of Cambridge University and the European Investment Bank.

BIOECON is an interdisciplinary network aiming to advance economic theory and policy for biodiversity conservation. Each year its annual meeting represents an opportunity for networking and sharing lessons and experiences with other researchers, environmental professionals, international organizations and policy makers who are interested in working on design and implementation of cutting edge economic incentives for biodiversity conservation.

This year the Conference was focused on identifying the most effective and efficient instruments for biodiversity conservation, and special emphasis was given to policy reforms aimed at increasing the commercial rewards for conserving biodiversity, increasing the penalties for biodiversity loss and circulating information on the biodiversity performance requirements of firms. An increasing number of businesses, which were responsible for biodiversity loss in the past, are now supporters of biodiversity conservation. Markets for organic agriculture and sustainably-harvested timber are developing at double-digit rates, while rapid growth is observed in the demand for climate mitigation services, such as the protection of forests and wetlands to absorb carbon dioxide. Bio-prospecting, the search for new compounds, genes and organisms in the wild, is another biodiversity business on the rise.

The Conference was structured in two days. Each day hosted a plenary session, where leading international environmental economists presented their latest research, ten parallel sessions; to end with a panel discussion giving to the audience an interesting perspective that is the link between theory and practice.
The first plenary session was held by Professor Edward BARBIER (University of Wyoming, USA), who showed how modelling the natural resources as a special form of capital can be extended to ecosystems, implying that they are a form of natural asset that produce a flow of beneficial goods and services over time. The second key-note speech, by Professor Anil MARKANDYA (University of Bath, UK and BC3, Spain) provided a critical overview of the contribution of the discipline of economics to biodiversity conservation. The pursuit of economic objectives can be seen as the cause of much of today's environmental problems. However just as economic tools can cause biodiversity loss, so can they be used in the objective of environmental protection.

The panel discussions closing each day programme have become a highly appreciated tradition in the last BIOECON annual conferences. The first one was co-organised with the European Investment Bank and Ca' Foscari University of Venice Department of Economics, dealing with issues regarding the role of economic valuation of ecosystem services and the identification of potential economic instruments to enhance the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. The key messages were delivered by Joshua BISHOP (International Union for Conservation of Nature), Peter CARTER (European Investment Bank), Nicolas KOSOY (United Nations Environment Programme), Sissel WAAGE (Business for Social Responsibility). The second panel discussion was organised by Conservation International and devoted to applying economic instruments to enable people to conserve biodiversity and ecosystem services. The panellists, Claude GASCON, Eduard NIESTEN, Jennifer MORRIS (Conservation International) and John REID (Conservation Strategy Fund).

The selection of papers was made privileging works documenting practical applications and experiences on the themes of:
- Assessment of the effectiveness and efficiency of biodiversity conservation instruments, taking into account spatial and governmental considerations;
- Development of new, incentive-compatible instruments to conserve biodiversity;
- Evaluation of the costs of conservation policies versus the costs of 'business-as-usual' within an existing policy framework (e.g. agriculture, fisheries, infrastructure, climate change, etc) that causes ongoing losses of ecosystems and biodiversity;
- Determination of the factors - including the choice of policy instruments - that increase or decrease a farmer's or public body's motivation to conserve biodiversity on their land;
- Application to strategies and projects of the ecosystem services approach for assessing and valuing environmental impacts;
- Benefit transfer methodologies to assess the socio-economic and monetary value of ecosystems services;
- Applications of economic instruments to enhance the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, with particular emphasis on case studies in biodiversity hotspots.

However, the programme gave space also to theoretical contributions (e.g., using computer artificial intelligence approaches), and more applied work (e.g. how public bodies can innovatively deliver wider ecosystem benefits, or how private landowners can be encouraged to conserve biodiversity on their land).

The set of selected papers provide strong evidence of significant global and local economic losses and human welfare impacts attributable to the ongoing losses of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystems. This year, particular attention was focused on the study of the effects of climate change on ecosystem services and biodiversity loss. A particular session was devoted to this topic. An innovative approach, which extends the state-of-the-art general equilibrium frameworks by introducing an additional sector - the 'ecosystem' sector - into the underlying "market-based" general equilibrium assessment, show that induced climate change impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services involve significant welfare losses, of about 145-170 billion US$ and therefore autonomous adaptation cannot be invoked as the solution to climate change. economic assessment. Finally, BIOECON2009 was characterized by the strong presence of worldwide practitioners, including Conservation International, DEFRA, European Investment Bank, UNEP, and the IUCN, and this way contributing significantly to the discussion, stressing the importance of ecosystems for cost-effective climate change mitigation and adaptation policies and indirectly promoting the connection of the BIOECON2009 to the current international political agenda, aiming at better integrating biodiversity priorities into policy choices.

The conference hosted in total 139 participants, coming mainly from Europe, United States, China and Canada. Researchers from Australia and Africa were present as well. Not only its success was confirmed by the higher number of participants with respect to the planned one; but also by the record number of submitted papers (153), with an acceptance rate of 44,4%.

Download the full Conference report, with a summary for each session

Special thanks to all the researchers who contributed to the preparation of this report:
Helen Ding, Fabio Eboli, Marina Garcia-Llorente, Andrea Ghermandi, Marko Iskra, Alberto Persona, Sonja Teelucksingh, Chiara Travisi



BioIndexa: a tool for the computation of the index of biodiversity based on dissimilarities

LAMETA team has just engineered a computerized tool that calculate Weitzman's index of biodiversity. The number of calculus required by this index is so large that, so far, it was impossible to measure the biodiversity of samples with more than 30 species. The team found a method that, to some extent, overcomes this computer limitation, succeeding to compute the biodiversity of samples up to 1,000 species.

The tool is available here: Please contact Charles Figuières ( to obtain a login.

The LAMETA team suggests also this short survey about the indexes of biodiversity for a wide-layman: Criteria for assessment of biodiversity: properties and difficulties of use.

Agriculture and Biodiversity - Benefiting from synergies

INRA has released the results of a multidisciplinary scientific assessment on the relationships between agriculture and biodiversity. Commissioned by the French ministries of agriculture and ecology, the assessment should be seen against the backdrop of a global challenge - stemming the loss of biodiversity – and approaching deadlines for national and European environmental and agricultural policies. The assessment describes the current wisdom on the impact of agriculture on biodiversity, as well as the services that biodiversity can render to agricultural production processes. It explores possibilities that would allow better integration of biodiversity in agricultural practices and reviews the different tools for public action.

To conduct the assessment, INRA called on about twenty experts from various institutions (of which INRA, CNRS, IRD, agricultural schools, ISARA) working in different disciplines, including ecology, agronomy, economics, social sciences, and law.

Their conclusions have been published in an assessment report downoadable here:


From University of Joensuu

Nordic Environmental Law, Governance and Science Network (NELN+) Workshop 3 / 2009
An ecosystem services approach in environmental regulation
Koli, Finland, 11 - 13 November 2009
The workshop addressed the following themes:
- the concept of ecosystem services, the economics of these services and relationship between ecosystem services and the society with special attention on natural resource management;
- the ability and / or inability of the current legal order and legislation to address ecosystem services;
- proposed or tested governing modes of ecosystem services.

Full programme of the workshop and presented papers are availble at:

University of Joensuu Doctoral thesis no. 86.2008
"You Can’t Please Everyone” - Conflict Management Practices, Frames and Institutions in Finnish State Forests
by Kaisa Raitio

The thesis analyses conflict management in Finnish state-owned forests. The study focuses on the conflict management practices and frames of Metsähallitus (Finnish Forest and Park Service), Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and Ministry of Environment, as well as the formal regulations and informal norms that guide the use of the forests. These factors are analysed through two case studies in 1992–2006. The first concerns the oldgrowth forest conflict between conservation and timber production in Kainuu Province. The second concerns the conflict between state forestry and Sámi reindeer herding in Inari Municipality. The material includes 25 semi-structured interviews conducted in the state forest administration, and documented sources of law, policy and planning documents, and media releases.



BIOLAC: Toward Biodiversity Conservation, Sustainable Use and Benefit-Sharing in Latin America and the Caribbean
by Sonja Teelucksingh

A key component of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment is continued global biodiversity loss and the implications of this for human well being. Biodiversity is a complex resource that demands a multi-disciplinary ecological and economic approach. Solutions to biodiversity loss will come both from better biological models and from a better understanding of the socio-economic factors that benefit from biodiversity, negatively impact its losses and can be directed to sustainable use by appropriate public policies. The continued biodiversity loss of the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) region is seen as one of the world's principal environmental problems, with a regional approach to biodiversity yet to be adopted. The role of biodiversity in the provision of ecosystem goods and services to the stakeholders of the LAC, the integration of biodiversity into the region's peculiar economic structures, the development of economic incentives and payment mechanisms towards regional biodiversity conservation, sustainable use and benefit-sharing, and the production of a generic template for integrated ecological-economic stakeholder-based biodiversity research in the region are the primary objectives of this proposal.

These objectives are being achieved through the execution of 5 Modules and 12 associated Work Packages over a 24 month period. Module 1 develops the conceptual framework for the ecological-economic BIOLAC model. Module 2 applies this framework to a selected regional case study. Module 3 calculates the welfare losses at stakeholder levels of biodiversity loss. Module 4 develops payment mechanisms for ecosystem services at a regional level. Module 5 develops a generic framework for the application of the BIOLAC model to other case studies of the region, with dissemination of the project's methods and results to regional stakeholders and decision-makers as the critical, final deliverable.

One year into the project, Module 1 has been completed and Module 2 is in progress. The case study site has been selected as the North Coast communities of Trinidad (with particular emphasis on the community of Grande Riviere) where significant nesting of leatherback turtles takes place, with the development of significant domestic and international tourism around this natural phenomenon. Collaboration has begun with WIDECAST (, a regional network of biologists, managers, community leaders and educators committed to the recovery of the depleted regional sea turtle population. The fieldwork and data collection has two major components, local community surveys and tourist surveys, where it is the intention that these studies will form a template for further applications in other regional locations.

More info on the BIOLAC project at:

FEEM Policy Brief 08.2009
Climate change, ecosystem services and biodiversity loss: an economic assessment
by Helen Ding and Paulo A.L.D. Nunes

Abstract: The present policy brief contributes to the ongoing debate by addressing the economic valuation of the induced climate change impacts on European biodiversity and ecosystem services.Firstly, we evaluate the impacts of climate change on biodiversity and ecosystem services, building upon the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) conceptual framework, considering biodiversity as the underpinning of ecosystems and ecosystem services, which in turn contribute to human well-being. In this context, this step encompasses the determination of the role of biodiversity in the creation of provisioning, regulating and cultural services.Secondly, we develop an integrated, hybrid valuation approach so as to assess the economic magnitude of the involved impacts: integrated because it is characterized by the use of both of bio-physical and economic valuation models and hybrid because it is characterized by an integrated use of alternative economic valuation methodologies.Finally, we extend state-of-the-art general equilibrium frameworks by introducing an additional sector, the ‘ecosystem’ sector, into the underlying “market-based” general equilibrium assessment. Estimation results show that induced climate change impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services involve significant welfare losses, of about 145-170 billion US$ and therefore autonomous adaptation cannot be invoked as the solution to climate change.Furthermore, the distribution of the impacts varies widely according to the nature of the ecosystem service under consideration and to the geo-climatic region. Thus, the decision of including biodiversity and ecosystem services is expected to be a key component of the future climate policy framework, along with the evaluation of mitigation and planned adaptation strategies to be presented at the 15th COP, Copenhagen, 2009.

FEEM Working paper 121.2009
Recreational, Cultural and Aesthetic Services from Estuarine and Coastal Ecosystems
by Andrea Ghermandi, Paulo A.L.D. Nunes, Rosimeiry Portela, Nalini Rao, Sonja S. Teelucksingh

Abstract: The role of economic analysis in guiding the sustainable development of estuarine and coastal ecosystems is investigated based on a comprehensive review of the literature on the valuation of the recreation, cultural and aesthetic services. The implications of the findings for the sustainable management of coral reefs, Marine Protected Areas, and Small Island Developing States are discussed. Finally, the potential of meta-analytical benefit transfer and scaling up of values at various aggregation levels is demonstrated in the context of coastal tourism and recreation in Europe. The results of the study support the conclusion that the non-material values provided by coastal and estuarine ecosystems in terms of recreational, cultural and aesthetic services represent a substantial component of human well-being.


From University of Lapland

University of Lapland signals the recent publication of Research Programme on Environment and Law 2005-2008 in Finland has been evaluated (Publications of the Academy of Finland 11/09). The evaluation panel found that the Law and Environment Research Programme largely functioned as intended. The research area was very challenging and of high relevance. The most visible weakness of the programme was a rather poor integration of the concept of sustainable development into the programme. It could also be criticised that more traditional legal research could have been more seriously present within and across the research themes. The absolute strength of the programme was its true interdisciplinarity in the implementation. The important goal of interdisciplinarity was approached in an innovative and exemplary way. Furthermore, the organisation and execution of the programme were very good. The overall quality of the results was very high within the relatively modest framework of resources provided. The evaluation panel considered that the programme had been particularly successful in establishing a highly visible and interactive ‘programme community’ of researchers, such that the potential for integrated conceptual ‘school’ is clearly present.

See the entire document


About the BIOECON Newsletter

The BIOECON Newsletter is prepared with the contribution of all the BIOECON Partner Institutions. Please send comments and questions to:
The BIOECON Newsletter is a four-month publication. Next issue: June 2010

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