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The Value of Ecosystem Health

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The concept of ecosystem health is problematic. Do ecosystems as such exist? Is health an objective condition of organisms or is it socially constructed? Can 'health' be unequivocally predicated of ecosystems? Is ecosystem health both objective and valuative? Are ecosystem health and biological integrity identical? How do these concepts interface with the concept of biodiversity?

Ecosystems exist, although they are turning out to be nested sets of linked process-functions with temporal boundaries, not tangible superorganisms with spatial boundaries. Ecosystem health - or normal occurrence of ecological processes and functions - is an objective condition of ecosystems, although the concept of ecosystem health allows some room for personal and social determination or construction. Ecosystem health is prudentially, aesthetically, and intrinsically valuable, although the value of ecosystem health is subjectively conferred. Biodiversity and biological integrity are different from, but not unrelated to, ecosystem health. Together these three normative concepts represent complementary conservation goals.

Keywords: biodiversity; community; ecosystem; ecosystem health; health; integrity; objective; subjective; value

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 1995-11-01

More about this publication?
  • Environmental Values is an international peer-reviewed journal that brings together contributions from philosophy, economics, politics, sociology, geography, anthropology, ecology and other disciplines, which relate to the present and future environment of human beings and other species. In doing so we aim to clarify the relationship between practical policy issues and more fundamental underlying principles or assumptions.

    Environmental Values has an impact factor (2015) of 1.311.
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