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Bridging the Gap Between Economics and Ecology

Larry Leefers, Michigan State University
Gem Castillo, Michigan State University

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Abstract

Economics and ecology are often presented as opposing disciplines. Both fields have strengths and weaknesses. A new transdisciplinary field, ecological economics, attempts to bring together the strengths of both disciplines with a vision for a sustainable future. In this paper, we focus on one particular concept championed by ecological economists, natural capital. In particular, our interest is on the institutionalization of this concept through the United Nation's Satellite System for Integrated Environmental and Economic Accounting (SEEA). SEEA is an international convention that incorporates natural resource accounting as a complement to the traditional System of National Accounts (SNA). In the case of boreal forests, the stocks and flows of forest resources can be assessed to determine prospects for sustainability. To provide a context for how natural resource accounting may be applied to boreal forests, we review the origin and purpose of natural resource accounting, summarize several cases in which natural resource accounting has been applied, and present an example of stocks and flows from Michigan's (United States) boreal forest resources. Natural resource accounting work from Canada, Finland, Norway, and other countries with boreal forests should be compiled and analyzed to provide more insights regarding circumpolar forest conditions.

Key words

boreal forest, circumpolar resources, degradation, depletion, ecological economics, Michigan, natural capital, natural resources accounting, SEEA, sustainability, United Nations Environment Programme, World Bank.
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087