Critical natural capital (CNC) is commonly defined as that part of the natural environment, which performs important and irreplaceable functions. So far, the challenge to determine the criticality of natural capital (NC) has mainly been taken up by the natural sciences, and the critical functions of nature mainly associated with its life-support and ecological services. Little attention has been paid to the socio-cultural functions of NC and to their values for the health and well being of human societies. The aim of this paper is to encourage a more complete accounting of the critical functions of NC and its associated values, by highlighting the importance of the information functions (health, recreation, amenity, education, heritage, etc.) for the quality and sustainability of human life. It is argued that, despite their immaterial and often intangible nature, these functions provide many, socio–economic benefits, which might be assessed through both qualitative and quantitative valuation methodologies. Integration of ecology, sociology and economics is essential to operationalize the concept of CNC as a tool for more balanced environmental planning and decision making.
Ecological Economics – Elsevier
Published: Mar 1, 2003
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