WP5 Valuation of Soil Ecosystem Services

WP-leader Unai Pascual, University of Cambridge, UK (up211 @ cam.ac.uk)



  • The concept of value of soil biodiversity regarding the supply of soil ecosystem services;
  • Potential of economic incentive mechanisms to deliver valuable soil ecosystem services;
  • Social constraints and barriers to achieving soil conservation targets;
  • Cost effectiveness of bioindicators associated with soil ecosystem services.

Description of work

A premise of EcoFINDERS is that society values soil ecosystem services to the extent that they fulfil needs or confer satisfaction to humans. The conception of value in the project is thus anthropocentric in order to guide policy making. It is based on the notion that soil biodiversity is natural capital, and the flow of soil ecosystem services is the “interest” on that capital. EcoFINDERS however does not aim at substituting for other legitimate ethical or scientific reasoning and arguments relating to soil conservation.

WP5 in close collaboration with WP2, will address the theoretical and empirical question of how to value soil services while at the same time acknowledging the natural insurance value of soil biodiversity. Understanding this additional value component of soils will help to develop successful EU policy frameworks and soil conservation initiatives. WP5 (in connection with WP6) recognises that valuation requires direct stakeholder involvement since different stakeholders might have divergent perspectives on the value of the same soil service. For example local agents such as farmers tend to attach higher values to provisioning services while national or global agents might also attach a significant value to regulating services. In addition, since local agents’ valuation of soil ecosystem services is mediated by socio-economic factors as well as trust in regulatory arrangements, these are likely to affect the success of soil conservation initiatives. WP5 will carry out analysis to understand how soil conservation initiatives, akin to the notion of payment for soil ecosystem services, can be best designed to conserve soil biodiversity. Lastly, based on expert judgement, WP5 will assess the cost effectiveness of bioindicators.


WP5 will be focused on

(1)   developing appropriate economic valuation tools, in particular developing frameworks to assess the value of soil ecosystem services and associated resilience attributes of soil biodiversity,

(2)   understanding the current institutions under which soil services are governed and the diversity of stakeholder values associated with soil services, and

(3)   assessing how economic instruments may help to conserve soil services in a cost-effective way.

The methods will involve

(1)  comprehensive literature survey including scientific outlets and policy reports

(2)  Bio-economic modelling of soil functions and processes based on inputs from WP2,

(3)  Production function approach building on work undertaken in WP2 and on the state of the art knowledge evidencing the significance of soil biodiversity in plant productivity;

(4)  Conjoint analysis to ascertain key policy attributes that allow delivering desired soil ecosystem services by land managers under different assessment criteria,

(5)  Institutional analysis of social acceptability of the alternative policy instruments based on stakeholder interaction

(6)  multi-criteria assessment of the cost-effectiveness of bioindicators


 (1)  The role of soil biodiversity as building up ecological resilience in soil systems is amenable of economic analysis based on the notion of insurance value of natural capital.

(2)  Voluntary incentive mechanisms can be designed to build up soil resilience and enhance human wellbeing

(3)  Assessing the cost-effectiveness of bioindicators will better guide policy making