Society depends on services and benefits provided by ecosystems. Yet, many of our actions affect ecosystems in ways that undermine long-term human wellbeing. Although ecosystems provide many services to society, many of these services are not accounted for in land-use decisions. The concept of “ecosystem services” offers a framework for understanding our dependence on nature and can encourage decision makers to consider broader impacts of land-use decisions beyond short-term economic rewards. Furthermore, economic valuation of ecosystem services offers a potential strategy for including the value of ecosystem services in decision making.
Here I describe several ecosystem service frameworks and outline how these frameworks can inform land-use decisions, with a particular focus on those involving forests. I then describe methods for valuing ecosystem services. Following this, I provide examples relating to forest ecosystem services and draw conclusions based on existing valuation studies in New Zealand. My intention is to convey how an ecosystem service approach could be used in New Zealand to capture benefits provided by ecosystems that are often not accounted for in land-use decisions.