Environmental Engineering Reference
In-Depth Information
The nature of commodity outputs is unambiguous in the sense that they are
economic in nature with values determined by the market. Key agricultural
commodities include crops, livestock, flowers and raw materials for secondary
production. Non-commodities refer to environmental and social characteristics
which are usually public goods; society deems non-commodity outputs as
desirable but markets do not exist to ensure a convergence between supply and
demand. 1 Here De Groot's (2006) classification is of interest because when
there is a market, this one is related with the services and goods provided, not
to the specific functions involved in the supply of these goods and services.
A recurrent problem associated with multifunctional attributes is that providing
non-commodities (or, non-food services) is complicated by the fact that multiple
and non-unilateral links exist between the different functions fulfilled by agricul-
ture, the ecosystem processes and components involved in fulfilling these functions
and the sets of goods and services provided. To the best of our knowledge, only a
very recent addition to the literature makes a clear distinction between these very
different things: functions, processes and components involved one the one side
can be distinguished from the goods and services provided, on the other side (see
De Groot 2006) . This distinction is important: usually a given component of the
landscape (a vegetation root matrix for example) can provide several functions (in
our case: soil retention; water regulation and filtering; nutrient regulation) and it
can be involved in the supply of several non-commodity outputs and so even the
simple description of the relationships between components, functions and services
provided is often confused. But the classification proposed by De Groot enables
simplifying such a description because each function provides only one type of
good and service. Of course, De Groot's classification was elaborated first for natu-
ral and semi-natural landscapes and requires some modification for the man-made
components of landscapes.
If we take the example of rural landscapes, such landscapes have an important
role to play in the maintenance of regulation functions 2 from De Groot (2006) . One
of these concerns is climate regulation; fulfilling this function involves biologically
mediated processes that influence climate. Furthermore, fulfilling this function
provides services, such as the maintenance of a favourable climate for human habi-
tation, health and cultivation. The most important thing to recognise from De
1 This definition of jointness is not universal: other definitions of jointness couch non-commodity
outputs solely in terms of environmental characteristics, excluding the social dimension (e.g.
Nowicki 2004) which could in part reflect the fact that assessment of social non-commodity outputs
is hampered by a lack of available data.
2 Regulation functions: 'this group of functions relates to the capacity of natural and semi-natural
ecosystems to regulate essential ecological processes and life support systems through bio-geochemical
cycles and other biospheric processes. Regulation functions maintain a “healthy” ecosystem at different
scale levels and, at the biosphere level, provide and maintain the conditions for life on Earth' (De
Groot 2006) .
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