Discussion paper

DP13544 Economic Development and Biodiversity

There is an urgent need for studying the development of biodiversity in the (recent) past. It is one of the biggest threats to the sustainable future of mankind, and the process is largely driven by economic and demographic changes. However, it has however not received much attention by economic historians. Several (historical) socio-economic drivers of biodiversity have been recognized, however, the extent, rate and precise causes of current decline remains unknown. A historical perspective on biodiversity and the network of socio-economic factors causing it, will lead to a more inclusive understanding of the complex human-nature relations resulting in biodiversity decline. The models currently used to simulate these processes, and theoretical notions about it, have not been sufficiently tested against the historical record. To that end, it is proposed to study biodiversity on the basis of historical records and data. Moreover, a research framework is presented that may be the starting point for the new research agenda. The framework gives a schematic overview of the interconnected natural and socio-economic systems across different temporal, spatial and biological scales. This is then applied to the case of the Netherlands in the 20th century, and the causes of the decline and recent rise of biodiversity are analyzed.


van Goethem, T and J van Zanden (2019), ‘DP13544 Economic Development and Biodiversity‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 13544. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp13544