Global Estimates of the Value of Ecosystems and Their Services in Monetary Units

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* Article: Global estimates of the value of ecosystems and their services in monetary units. By Rudolf de Groot, Luke Brander, Sander van der Ploe et al. Ecosystem Services, Volume 1, Issue 1, July 2012, Pages 50-61

URL = http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2212041612000101

Abstract

Robert Constanza et al.:

"This paper gives an overview of the value of ecosystem services of 10 main biomes expressed in monetary units. In total, over 320 publications were screened covering over 300 case study locations. Approximately 1350 value estimates were coded and stored in a searchable Ecosystem Service Value Database (ESVD). A selection of 665 value estimates was used for the analysis.

Acknowledging the uncertainties and contextual nature of any valuation, the analysis shows that the total value of ecosystem services is considerable and ranges between 490 int$/year for the total bundle of ecosystem services that can potentially be provided by an ‘average’ hectare of open oceans to almost 350,000 int$/year for the potential services of an ‘average’ hectare of coral reefs.

More importantly, our results show that most of this value is outside the market and best considered as non-tradable public benefits. The continued over-exploitation of ecosystems thus comes at the expense of the livelihood of the poor and future generations. Given that many of the positive externalities of ecosystems are lost or strongly reduced after land use conversion better accounting for the public goods and services provided by ecosystems is crucial to improve decision making and institutions for biodiversity conservation and sustainable ecosystem management.

Highlights

► We screened over 300 case studies on the monetary value of ecosystem services.

► The average value (market and non-market) of 10 main ecosystem types was calculated.

► The total value ranged between 490 (Open Ocean) and 350,000 (Coral Reefs) Int$/ha/yr.

► Most of the monetary value of ecosystem services is not captured in markets."

Discussion

REBECCA J. ROSEN:

"Back in 1997, ecologist Robert Constanza and a team of researchers set out to quantify a seemingly unquantifiable abundance: the value, in dollars, of the world's ecosystems.

But first they needed a good, concrete list of what exactly it was the ecosystems provide. They came up with 17 discrete categories, which they labeled "ecosystem services," although some are technically goods. There were the obvious things, like food (game, fish, nuts, and so on) and raw materials (timber, fuel, etc.). But there were also more subtle effects, such as how wetlands protect some coastal areas from the battering of storms or how forests convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. Cultural and recreational uses also made the list.

And so what's the value of all that? Or, as the authors framed it, how much would we have to pay to recreate those services if for some reason they didn't occur naturally? Fifteen years ago, they estimated that cost to be around $33 trillion ($48.7 trillion in today's dollars)—more than the GDP of the entire globe at the time.

Now Constanza has returned to this project and, in a new paper co-authored with many of his original collaborators, he concludes that that 1997 estimate fell quite short. Armed with data from a massive international survey of ecosystems and their relationships with human well-being in communities around the world, Constanza and his team now say that ecosystems are worth way, way more than they had thought: $142.7 trillion.

As Carl Zimmer explains in the New York Times, much of the increase comes from a better understanding of just how valuable some of these ecological services are. "Coral reefs, for instance, have proved to be much more important for storm protection than previously recognized," he writes. "They also protect against soil erosion by weakening waves before they reach land. As a result, Dr. Costanza and his colleagues now consider the services provided by coral reefs to be 42 times more valuable than they did in 1997. They estimate that each acre of reef provides $995,000 in services each year for a total of $11 trillion worldwide."

But, unfortunately, Constanza's update was necessitated not only by improved data, but because the size of our ecological resources has diminished so greatly over the past decade and a half." (https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/06/how-much-are-the-worlds-ecosystems-worth/372862/)