Environmental and Resource Economics

The natural environment has a wide range of ecological and economic functions, however, its capacity to provide these functions is limited. Increasing human demand leads to scarcity of natural resources and, as a result, conflicts concerning exploitation and conservation of resources arise between different interest groups.

In this situation it is crucial to analyse and develop suitable basic conditions, which comprise regional economic development as well as sustainable use of natural resources. This is particularly challanging for ‘economics’ as the scientific discipline dealing with the allocation of scarce resources. The central task of the Environmental and Resource Economics Group is the provision of scientific support for decision making related to economic aspects of forests, landscapes and natural hazards.

The human individual is the centre of attention of theories and models in environmental and resource economics. People’s decisions and interactions related to their natural environment are analysed, explained and evaluated.

Main research areas

Analysis of the effectiveness of institutional regulations and policy measures related to forest, landscape and natural hazards

How do existing economic instruments (subsidies, taxes, …) influence the behaviour of forest agents (forest owners, foresters, tourists), and what is their impact on the provision of forest goods and services (timber, conservation, protection, recreation)?

Analysis of the interests and standpoints involved in the political process

How to explain the legislative process that leads to political regulations, e.g. those aimed at enhancing ecological services of landscapes? On which conditions and in which constellations of interests are effective market–oriented instruments successful in the political process?

Analysis of the supply side of goods and services concerning forest, landscape and natural hazards

How to determine the costs of enhancing protection services of forests? On which conditions (prices, ownership, etc.) protection services will be provided? What does it cost to maintain diverse cultural landscapes in marginal areas, and how will these landscapes develop in the future?

Analysis of the demand side of goods and services concerning forest, landscape and natural hazards

What is the value of forests (e.g. the City of Zurich’s forest) for recreation purposes? What is the demand for maintaining cultural landscapes in summer grazing areas in the Swiss mountains? What are the benefits of forests providing protection services against natural hazards?