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Rights to Ecosystem Services

Marc D. Davidson

Environmental Values 23 (2014): 335-352. doi: 10.3197/096327114X13947900181239


Ecosystem services are the benefits people obtain from ecosystems. Many of these services are provided outside the borders of the land where they are produced; this article investigates who is entitled to these non-excludable ecosystem services from two libertarian perspectives. Taking a right-libertarian perspective, it is concluded that the beneficiaries generally hold the right to use non-excludable ecosystem services and the right that landowners do not convert ecosystems; landowners are only at liberty to convert ecosystems if they appropriated their land before any beneficiary used the services and converted the ecosystems before or shortly after the beneficiaries started using the services. This means that the beneficiaries generally have the right to compensation payments by the landowners in the event of service losses, instead of the landowners having the right to payments for ecosystem services by the beneficiaries. Taking a left-libertarian perspective, it is concluded that people hold an equal per capita right to non-excludable ecosystem services. This right can be secured by the beneficiaries paying a central authority for the non-excludable ecosystem services they use, while the owners of the land on which the ecosystems are situated pay a central authority for the non-excludable ecosystem services lost as a result of their activities. The central authority distributes the returns to the community on an equal per capita basis.


Ecosystem services, libertarianism, incentive measures, natural resources

CITATIONS in other Environmental Values articles

Editorial: Borders and Boundaries. Simon Hailwood

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