Historically the economic value of most resources has not been measured, and management decisions about the production priorities of ecosystems may have underestimated the economic loss of intensively managing the area for just one or two products, like timber or livestock. Moreover, the price of maintaining intact ecosystems for securing services for on-site and distant beneficiaries, like water (i.e. mountain stored water for downstream population in watersheds), is not being considered, and local communities, as suppliers, do not derive the appropriate benefits from diminishing their extractive activities or resource needs in order to be compatible with distant demand for resources.
Therefore the first challenge in equitably compensating local communities as stewards, and thus ensuring a sustainable outflow of resources, is to identify and value resources as accurately as possible. Once the values of resources are identified and recognized, mechanisms can be employed which capture this value and redirect it from the users to the local communities. In addition to traditional economic tools, innovative environmental valuation techniques provide the means for attaching economic values to many of these resources which traditionally have not been measured.
Innovative mechanisms are needed to protect mountain ecosystems, provide incentives for communities to continue their stewardship roles and, ultimately, maintain the very resources on which national and global populations depend. Payments for Environmental Services (PES), such as voluntary carbon markets; incentives provided to farmers who sign up voluntarily to agro-environmental commitments recognising the essential role that mountain farmers play in providing environmental services; new marketing opportunities for linking cultural and natural goods from the mountains; and the diversification of high quality products to get a competitive advantage in the global market, all together may help develop the Mediterranean rural economies dependent on the sustainable use of natural resources.