[ASC-media] What are Coral Reef Services Worth?

Jenni Metcalfe jenni at econnect.com.au
Mon Oct 19 01:33:39 CEST 2009

$130,000 to $1.2 million / ht / yr: Experts


Economists, Assigning Values to "Ecosystem Services," Report Staggering
Totals and Rates of Return on Investment


600 biodiversity experts from 70 countries issue Cape Town declaration


Risks of Importing Disease Grow with Rising Pet Trade


Experts concluding the global DIVERSITAS biodiversity conference today in
Cape Town described preliminary research revealing jaw-dropping dollar
values of the "ecosystem services" of biomes like forests and coral reefs -
including food, pollution treatment and climate regulation.


Undertaken to help societies make better-informed choices, the economic
research shows a single hectare of coral reef, for example, provides annual
services to humans valued at US $130,000 on average, rising to as much as
$1.2 million.


The work provides insights into the worth of ecosystems in human economic
terms, says economist Pavan Sukhdev of UNEP, head of a Cambridge,
England-based project called The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity


Based on analysis of more than 80 coral reef valuation studies, the worth of
services per hectare of coral reef breaks down as follows:


* Food, raw materials, ornamental resources: average $1,100 (up to $6,000);

* Climate regulation, moderation of extreme events, waste treatment / water
purification, biological control: average $26,000 (up to $35,000);

* Cultural services (eg. recreation / tourism): average $88,700 (up to $1.1

* Maintenance of genetic diversity: average $13,500 (up to $57,000)


Taken together, coral reef services worldwide have an average annual value
estimated at $172 billion, says Mr. Sukhdev.


He notes the growing scientific agreement that coral reefs are unlikely to
survive if atmospheric carbon dioxide levels exceed 350 parts per million.
Negotiators of a new climate change deal in Copenhagen in December, however,
"would be proud" to achieve an agreement that limits atmospheric carbon to
450 parts per million, he says, calling that "a death sentence on the
world's coral reefs."


Halving the destruction of tropical forests, meanwhile, would allow them to
continue absorbing roughly 4.8 gigatonnes of carbon per year, slow the rise
of atmospheric carbon levels and forestall anticipated climate change
damage.  Halving deforestation has a net present value estimated at $3.7
trillion, according to research.


The economic choice of turning such forests into timber or clearing them to
make way for agriculture is "not very clever," says Mr. Sukhdev.  "Stopping
deforestation offers an excellent cost-benefit ratio."


"Investment in protected areas holds exceptional high returns," he says.
Previous studies have shown that investing $45 billion "could secure
nature-based services worth some $4.5 to 5.2 trillion annually."  Among the
specific examples cited: planting mangroves along a coastline in Vietnam
cost $1.1 million but saved $ 7.3 million annually in dyke maintenance.


Examples of a rate of return on investments in ecosystem restoration:

* Coral reefs: 7%, (with a cost-benefit ratio of 2.8); 

* Rivers: 27%, (cost-benefit ratio 15.5);

* Tropical forests: 50% (cost-benefit ratio 37.3);

* Mangroves: 40%, (cost-benefit ratio 26.4);

* Grasslands: 79%, (cost-benefit ratio 75.1). 

(see full graph online at:


TEEB is a UNEP-led project supported by the European Commission, German
Federal Ministry for the Environment, and the UK Department for Environment,
Food and Rural Affairs.


Biodiversity and society: understanding connections, adapting to change.


Over 600 scientists attending the international 2nd Open Science Conference
Oct. 13-16 hosted by DIVERSITAS, a Paris-based NGO, issued a concluding
statement confirming that, "as we approach the 2010 Year of Biodiversity .
the fabric out of which the Earth system is woven is unravelling at an
accelerating rate." 


"At the same time, we are discovering ever more about biodiversity and the
benefits it provides to people. It is clear that biodiversity loss erodes
the integrity of ecosystems and their capacity to adapt in a changing world.
It represents a serious risk to human wellbeing and a squandering of current
assets and future opportunities. 


"The biodiversity scientists gathered here commit themselves to finding
practical solutions to this problem. They will do so by: increasing shared
knowledge of biodiversity and its functions; helping to develop systems for
monitoring the biodiversity of the planet; and being responsive to the
knowledge needs of society with clear communication of findings.


"The proposed mechanism for the ongoing evaluation and communication of
scientific evidence on these issues is an Intergovernmental Panel on
Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). We call on governments and
non-governmental organisations to join us in establishing IPBES as soon as
possible. We urge policy-makers to act swiftly and effectively on the
already-established and future findings relating to ways of limiting further
biodiversity loss and restoring ecosystem services."


"Meeting current and future human needs must make adequate provision for the
complex web of life of which people are an integral part. People everywhere
must give effect to their shared desire for a biologically-rich and
productive planet through their individual decisions and political voices."


Growth of global pet trade risks health


Among dozens of conference presentations, US experts warned that the risk of
importing diseases is rising in tandem with growth of the multi-billion
dollar pet animal trade.


The US alone imports some 200 million such animals annually from 194
countries.  Most were captured from the wild and most arrived from Southeast
Asia, a hotspot incubator of emerging diseases.  


A study lead by Katherine Smith of Brown University found just 13% of animal
shipments allowed in were classified by species - most were admitted with
vague labels like "live vertebrate" or "fish," raising concerns about not
just disease but potentially introducing invasive species that could harm
native ecosystems, wildlife and domestic animals.


She estimated 2,241 non-native species were imported to the U.S. between
2000 and 2006 and says there have been 335 outbreaks of emerging infectious
diseases since 1940, 75% of which had animal origins.  Among the outbreaks:
a 2003 US outbreak of monkeypox traced to African rodents imported for pets,
SARS in 2002, West Nile Virus in 1999, smallpox in the 1500s and syphilis in
the 1400s.


"The threat to public health is real, as the majority of emerging diseases
come from wildlife," says Dr. Smith, who listed dozens of fevers,
encephalitis, Leishmaniasis, and schistosomiasis among the health threats.


Just 100 inspectors at US borders are tasked with inspecting the shipments,
she adds.  From 2000 through 2006, the U.S. imported more than 1.5 billion
live animals, roughly equal to five animals for every citizen.


Pet shops could face tighter restrictions if the controversial Nonnative
Wildlife Invasion Prevention Act gets voted into law.


The researchers call for:

*	Stricter record keeping to help assess risk on animal imports. 
*	Third-party surveillance and testing for both known and unknown
pathogens at the exportation points in foreign countries. 
*	Greater education of citizens, importers, veterinarians and pet
industry advocates about the dangers of diseases that emerge from wildlife
and that can make their way to domesticated animals and humans.

The conference concluded with a major plenary, chaired by leading expert
Lijbert Brussaard, of Wageningen University, The Netherlands, on ways to
reconcile the competing Millennium Development Goals of protecting
biodiversity, reducing world hunger and alleviating poverty.
Among other measures, the experts called for a reduction in the estimated 30
to 40% of food lost through spoilage and waste.



* * * * *


DIVERSITAS (the Latin word for diversity) brings together biological,
ecological and social sciences to address key questions that underlie our
limited understanding of the current situation.

*	How much biodiversity exists and how does its change or loss affect
the system as a whole? 
*	How does biodiversity correspond to the delivery of ecosystem
functions and services, and what is the true value of these commodities? 
*	How can scientific investigation support policy and decision making
to encourage more sustainable use of biodiversity? 

Armed with a broader, deeper knowledge of biodiversity, we will be better
equipped to safeguard the future of Earth's natural resources.


For more information:  www.diversitas-osc.org



Jenni Metcalfe

Director Econnect Communication

PO Box 734

South Brisbane Q 4101



jenni at econnect.com.au

phone: + 61 7 3846 7111, +0408 551 866

skype:  jenni.metcalfe


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