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Economists all too often assume that ecosystem and population dynamics are subject to convex (even linear) processes. However, research by ecosystem and population ecologists has shown that the processes in question are very often non-convex. This has important implications for environmental and resource economics. Typically, a system under study or being managed would contain multiple basins of attraction. So the system would flip from one basin to another if a "threshold" (mathematically, a bifurcation) were crossed. Furthermore, the flip could be irreversible. But even if it were reversible, the system could well display hysteresis. The latter eventuality means that in order to entice the system to return to its original basin of attraction, a different and possibly costly path has to be traced. A mistake in management may then be a lot more costly than envisaged. An example would be a possible flip of the Gulf Stream owing to fresh water intrusion from melting glaciers during global warming.
Content Level »Research
Keywords »Sustainable Development - accounting prices - development - ecosystem - imperfect economies - irreversibility - non-convexity - optimization
The Economics of Non-Convex Ecosystems: Introduction; P. Dasgupta, K.-G. Mäler.
Scale and Scaling in Ecological and Economic Systems; J. Chave, S. Levin.
Convex Relationships in Ecosystems Containing Mixtures of Trees and Grass; R.J. Scholes.
Managing Systems with Non-Convex Positive Feedback; W.A. Brock, D. Starrett.
The Economics of Shallow Lakes; K.-G. Mäler, A. Xepapadeas, A. de Zeeuw.
Multiple Species Boreal Forests - What Faustmann Missed; A.-S. Crépin.
Evaluating Projects and Assessing Sustainable Development in Imperfect Economies; K.J. Arrow, P. Dasgupta, K.-G. Mäler.
Volume Contents. Author Index.