Conserving or restoring natural sites like forests and wetlands would be more valuable than using the same sites for agriculture or timber, according to a major new study.
The researchers found that the economic benefits of protecting nature-rich sites outweigh the profit potential that the same sites could generate by extracting resources. It suggests that even if making money, and not nature, is the priority, conserving these habitats still makes financial sense.
The study, led by the University of Cambridge and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), is the largest ever to compare the value of protecting nature in particular places with that of exploiting it.
Dozens of sites were analyzed on six continents, from Kenya to Fiji and from China to the United Kingdom.
The research team calculated the monetary value of each site’s “ecosystem services,” such as carbon storage and flood protection, as well as the potential dividends from converting it to the production of goods such as crops and timber.
Of the 24 sites analyzed, more than 70% brought more economic value to humanity in its natural state, including all forest sites examined.
One of the main economic benefits that natural habitats have is the regulation of greenhouse gases that drive climate change, including carbon sequestration, the researchers said.
Lead author Dr Richard Bradbury of the RSPB, and Honorary Fellow of the University of Cambridge, said: “Halting the loss of biodiversity is a vital goal in itself, but nature also fundamentally supports human well-being.
“We need nature-related financial disclosure and incentives for nature-centered land management, whether through taxes and regulations or subsidies for ecosystem services.”
Scientists found that Hesketh Out Marsh, a salt marsh near Preston, UK, is worth nearly £ 1,500 per hectare per year in emissions mitigation alone, exceeding any value that could otherwise be obtained from crops or land. grazing.
the recommendations, published in the journal Nature Sustainability, comes just weeks after a landmark review by Cambridge professor Sir Partha Dasgupta called for the value of biodiversity to be placed at the heart of the global economy.
In the review, which was commissioned by the UK Treasury, Dasgupta wrote: “Nature is our home. Good economics demands that we manage it better.
Nature is our home. A good economy demands that we manage it better
“Truly sustainable economic growth and development means recognizing that our long-term prosperity is based on rebalancing our demand for nature’s goods and services with its ability to supply them. It also means fully taking into account the impact of our interactions with nature. Covid-19 has shown us what can happen when we don’t do this. “
Lead Image: Nick Palmer