What if we could quantify the value of the earth’s ecosystem services and natural capital? Utilizing published studies as well as original calculations that estimated the value of 17 ecosystem services in 16 biomes, Robert Costanza of the University of Maryland concluded that the value of the earth’s ecosystem services and natural resources is between $16 and 54 trillion dollars per year with an average of $33 trillion per year. Considering that the global gross national product is approximately $18 trillion per year, ecosystem services have been grossly undervalued being that every business and human being benefits from them. Natural/artificial wetlands for example filter out water pollutant and are an abundant source of decomposed nutrients. Local wetlands can save thousands of dollars that would otherwise be invested in wastewater treatment plants; however these saved dollars do not show up in the gross national product. Farmers rely on bees and other insects to pollinate their crops. Without natural pollination, millions of dollars would be lost in both local and commercial agriculture; however the presence of this natural service is not accounted for in the gross national product either. Understanding the value of ecosystem services is crucial to both conserve the earth’s resources and to sustainably grow the economy at local, national, and global levels.
To read the full article “The Value of the World’s Ecosystem Services and Natural Capital” by Robert Costanza, see the link posted here.
To read about the bioprospecting model which links the practices of conservation and medical research as an example of valuing the economy and natural resources alike, click here.