Scientific knowledge is considered a cultural ecosystem service, at least within the framework of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA 2005). The concept of ecosystem services captures the tangible and intangible ways by which Nature, or ecosystems, benefit humans. For example, see the review of Johnston and Russell (2011) who focus on identifying ecosystem services based on whether at least one rational person would be willing to pay to increase an outcome from an ecosystem (cf., Kareiva 2011). Ecosystem services have become a focal point for developing research and policy to aid society generally in better balancing the contributions to quality of life from conservation or use of environmental resources and growth of the commercial economy. This paper reports on a small-scale experiment in which a broad group of ecological scientists were challenged to consider their own values within an economic framework, by considering whether to contribute financially (i.e., to donate) to support a global research initiative designed to investigate the implications of global change for grassland ecosystems. In this paper, we explore the concepts and foundations for economic valuation and use this small-scale experiment to illustrate some of the basic approaches of economics as they might apply to choices about ecosystem services, particularly using an application to the potential to enhance scientific knowledge.


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