The Economics of Wilderness – Pan Parks

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Opportunities of payments for ecosystem services to finance wilderness protection in Europe

(Read this article in french)

The newly published report entitled ‘The Economics of Wilderness’ discusses the key economic dimensions, challenges and opportunities of diversifying resources for wilderness protection in Europe with a focus on payments for ecosystem services. The report, released by PAN Parks Foundation, in partnership with Synergiz and Integrated Sustainability Services, is released on 31 January 2012, in Brussels, at the European Parliament conference on the protection of wilderness.

The Economics of WildernessPAN Parks Foundation published ‘The Economics of Wilderness’ to present good examples of how wilderness areas benefit various stakeholders via their various ecosystem services and to explore these values and ways how to translate them to conservation practitioners. Although the TEEB report (‘The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity’) has successfully mainstreamed the concept of payments for ecosystem services to support sustainable land use, this has not yet penetrated into the practice of protected area management. Moreover, PAN Parks felt it particularly important to highlight why and how these concepts might be used in the context of wilderness protected areas in Europe – that is not in managed or cultural landscape protected areas. In principle wilderness areas follow non-intervention management practice; therefore they offer very limited direct use benefits to local communities.

Through case studies and literature review, the report looks into the opportunities of diversifying resources for wilderness protection and outlines the possible steps for securing both the ecological and financial viability of European wilderness areas.

« The Economics of Wilderness » highlights several key points:

  • Wilderness areas provide various ecosystem benefits to various stakeholders and also imply forgone opportunities, also known as opportunity costs. Making the case for their effective protection and management thus implies efficient stakeholder engagement at all relevant scales, as well as the recognition of both benefits and costs. Yet, there is a general lack of understanding of the actual and potential economic benefits and costs associated with the specific management frameworks and rules of wilderness areas.
  • A comprehensive, comparative assessment of the benefits and costs of uses and non-use of ecosystem services for wilderness areas and other types of protected areas in Europe is clearly warranted.
  • Because of the methodological limitations and underlying principles of the economic valuation of biodiversity and ecosystem services (cost-benefit approach), wilderness managers and promoters should put complementary emphasis on accounting for the costs of inaction, i.e. the costs of not protecting the ecological assets and ecosystem services underpinning wilderness values (cost-efficiency approach).
  • The recent considerations of budget cuts in various European countries will put pressure on efforts to secure the ecological viability of wilderness areas. In addition to lobbying for sustainable state subsidies, wilderness promoters should seek new financing mechanisms so as to engage stakeholders in cost-effective wilderness conservation, restoration and expansion.
  • The emergence of payments for ecosystem services seems highly appealing from this perspective. Combining strategies for mitigating loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services and remunerating supply of biodiversity restoration and ecosystem services opens the door to new forms of arbitrage with respect to land-use planning. Yet, this implies overcoming various challenges for designing effective PES mechanisms, especially if payments were to be stacked.

« We sincerely hope that our recent publication, ‘The Economics of Wilderness’, will result in further research and development of practical examples throughout Europe for financing wilderness protection through payments for ecosystem services. There are a few good examples but European governments and protected area managers must be more open to implementing the recommendations of the TEEB report especially in wilderness areas. We need to seize the opportunities otherwise existing wilderness areas will be in further danger!’ says Zoltan Kun, Executive Director of PAN Parks Foundation. »

To full report is available at: 

For more information, contact
Zoltan Kun, Executive Director, PAN Parks Foundation, tel. +36 70 380 1522,
Edit Borza, Communications Manager, PAN Parks Foundation,

For more on PAN Parks, visit

Recommended citation:

Houdet, J., 2011. The Economics of Wilderness – Overcoming Challenges and Seizing Opportunities. PAN Parks Foundation – Integrated Sustainability Services – Synergiz, research report, p33


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