Valuing Nature’s Services
Why do we need to value nature and the services it provides?
Humans simply couldn’t survive without the ecosystem services that nature provides. Trees produce the oxygen we breathe. Fertile soil nurtures the crops we eat, while bees pollinate them. Wetlands filter the water we drink and protect us from floods and droughts. The list goes on.
However, our current economic system ignores those free services. And because so many of the decisions that businesses, governments and individuals make each day are based on economics, we’re putting short-term financial gains ahead of long-term sustainability.
Sooner or later, however, we’re going to pay the price. If bees disappeared, how much would it cost to pollinate a field of soybeans by hand? How much extra flood damage could we expect without wetlands to buffer us?
It’s time to start putting nature on the balance sheet.
What WWF is doingWe’re merging economic know-how with ecological expertise to put price tags on ecosystem services. At the same time, we’re working with stakeholders to identify local values and priorities.
Our international WWF colleagues have helped to develop InVEST, a suite of software tools that can answer questions like whether it makes more economic sense to transform a forest in Sumatra into a palm oil plantation or leave it intact to continue absorbing carbon, filtering water, producing food and sheltering wildlife.
Photo: Oil palm plantation in the background. Sumatra, Indonesia. © Mark Edwards / WWF-Canon
On the Grand Banks, our Financial Institution for the Recovery of Marine Ecosystems connects investors with the fisheries industry to finance more sustainable ways of managing our oceans — investments that will pay off in more productive fish stocks.
And when it comes to fresh water, we’re combining data on Canada’s renewable energy potential with conservation assessments of major rivers, helping to pinpoint which rivers have greatest value in their free-flowing state and which are good candidates for hydroelectric development.