Relative and absolute scarcity of nature: Assessing the roles of economics and ecology for biodiversity conservation

Publikation: Beiträge in ZeitschriftenÜbersichtsarbeitenForschung


Our aim in this essay is to identify and analyze some of the difficulties with interdisciplinary integration of economic and ecological contributions to the study of biodiversity loss. We develop our analysis from a widely accepted definition of economics which is based on the concept of scarcity. Taking a closer look at this notion, we find that economics actually limits itself to a very particular aspect of scarcity, which we denote as relative scarcity. We describe in what respect the economic approach towards biodiversity is based on this notion, and also reflect on the specific understanding of the relation of humans and nature behind the economic approach. We then turn to absolute scarcity as another notion of scarcity, and show that this is not within the scope of economics, but has been a theme of ecology and ecological economics. We describe in which way ecological and ecological-economic approaches towards biodiversity are based on the idea of absolute scarcity, and also reflect on the specific understanding of the human-nature relationship behind this notion of scarcity. Against this background, we discuss the roles of economics and ecology for nature conservation. We conclude that the interdisciplinary integration of ecology and economics requires a philosophical underpinning, and suggest a framework for further research. © 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
ZeitschriftEcological Economics
Seiten (von - bis)487-498
Anzahl der Seiten12
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 15.10.2006
Extern publiziertJa

Bibliographische Notiz

Funding Information:
We are grateful to Geir Asheim, Karin Frank, Andreas Lange, Birgit Müller, Konrad Ott, Martin Quaas, Irene Ring, Johannes Schiller, Ralph Winkler, two anonymous reviewers and conference participants at the 8th Biennial Conference of the International Society for Ecological Economics (Montreal 2004) for critical discussion and helpful comments; to Eva Kiesele for research assistance; to Maximilian Mihm for assistance with language and style; and to the Volkswagen Foundation for financial support under grant II/79 628. S.B. gratefully acknowledges financial support by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) under grant BA 2110/1-1 and the hospitality of the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley where the first draft of this manuscript was written.