Voices for Biodiversity

Ecosystem Services: A Solution to Extinction

Here is the theory: by assessing the true monetary value that plants, animals, and ecosystems hold for the health of humankind, policy-makers are more likely to respond to their rapid degradation. Calculating the economic benefits of ecosystem services is becoming a more systematic operation thanks to a joint project between The Nature Conservancy, University of Minnesota, Standford University, and the World Wildlife Fund. The partnership has attempted to mainstream the worth of natural capitol into economic decisions world-wide.

In fiscal terms, the environment provides numerous services that would require large sums of money to replicate with human-made alternatives. Many such services are irreplaceable. For example, the Sierra Nevada mountain ecosystem in California provides 2.2 billion dollars worth of commodities and services annually, in the forms of water sources, timber products, mining, tourism, and recreation. The number of rivers, streams, and lakes within the Sierra Nevada ecosystem provide 65 percent of California’s urban areas with water, as well as nearly all the water for Western Nevada. However, imminent threats such as dam building, development projects, and climate change radically affect this ecosystem’s ability to continue to produce at its current rate. 

The results of this project should yield monetary values for natural resources such as coral reefs, tree cover, mangroves, riparian forests, and even healthy populations of charismatic species that attract tourists. Watch the following video for a comprehensive break-down that makes cents.

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