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The University of Southampton
Interdisciplinary Research Excellence

The Economist reports our ESPA research ‘Pricing nature's freebies’.

Published: 13 July 2012

The Economist reports on our ESPA research in the Yangtze basin on ecosystem services and economic development.

A new paper by Professor John Dearing (Co-chair of Sustainability Science at Southampton), and his colleagues, looks at how long-term trends in "regulating" ecosystem services relate to economic growth. It highlights the deleterious effects on environmental balance that accompanies unchecked development.

The results are startling. A broad index reflecting the quality of services fell as China's GDP began to take off in the 1980s. A more fine-grained analysis revealed clear links between specific services and particular economic and agricultural policies.

For further details, please see the full report by the Economist:

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Project details:

This £250,000 project is part of the Ecosystem Services and Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) programme funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, Department for International Development and Economic and Social Research Council to the universities of Southampton, Dundee and Durham:

ESPA is a programme accredited under the Living With Environmental Change partnership:

Additional funding was from the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme Past Global Changes, National Natural Science Fund of China, the National Basic Research Program of China and the National Major Projects on Control and Rectification of Water Body Pollution.

To read the full research paper, ‘Extending the timescale and range of ecosystem services through paleo-environmental analyses, exemplified in the lower Yangtze basin,' visit:

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