More than 80 percent of the Caribbean's wastewater enters the ocean untreated, spurring the growth of algae on coral reefs and increasing the risk of infections for swimmers, among other issues. While many have been aware of this problem in Tobago for more than 20 years, there's been little government action.
Governments, businesses, development agencies, and NGOs are increasingly turning to economic valuation as a way to protect coral reefs and mangroves. This process makes the economic case for protection and sustainable use of natural resources by showing the monetary, employment, and infrastructure benefits ecosystems provide—metrics that are easily understood by decision-makers.
But not all economic valuations are created equal. WRI's new guidebook shows how NGOs and other stakeholders can conduct economic valuations in ways that lead to real change on the ground.
Tropical coastal ecosystems—including coral reefs, mangroves, beaches, and seagrasses—provide a range of valuable goods and services to people and economies across the Caribbean. These ecosystems contribute to tourism, fisheries, shoreline protection, and more.
How do people, governments, and corporations “value” ecosystems? And how can you put a price on the vast array of social, economic, and environmental benefits that ecosystems provide?
These are just two of the questions experts sought to address at “The Future of Revaluing Ecosystems,” an event WRI recently convened in Bellagio, Italy, in collaboration with the Rockefeller Foundation, Forum for the Future, and the Economist Intelligence Unit. The meeting brought together 32 participants from public, private, non-profit, and research sectors to consider how society could include in public and private decision-making a more complete valuing of the benefits ecosystems provide to people. The discussions shed light on how we can evaluate ecosystems’ true worth to communities and businesses —and how to use these valuations to foster better environmental stewardship.
Supporting the sustainable management of coastal ecosystems by quantifying their economic value.
Governments, corporations, and development agencies are increasingly interested in putting a dollar value on ecosystems in order to balance conservation and development needs, a concept known as “economic valuation.” For example, St. Maarten’s government recently established the country’s first marine national park after a local organization found that the area’s coastal ecosystems contribute $58 million per year through tourism and fisheries. Belize enacted a host of new fishing regulations based on a WRI valuation, which found that coral reef- and mangrove-associated tourism contributes $150 million-$196 million per year to the country’s economy. And in Bonaire, park managers used economic valuation to justify the Bonaire Marine Park’s establishment of user fees—making it one of the few self-financed marine parks in the Caribbean.
These stories show that economic valuation can indeed lead to better coastal policy, conserving these ecosystems and securing their important economic contributions. However, according to new WRI research, these cases tend to be the exception in the Caribbean.
Economic Valuation and Coastal Policy in the Caribbean
In the Caribbean, there is keen interest in economic valuation of coastal ecosystems to inform policy and improve natural resource management. But while the literature on the value of coral reefs and mangroves in the Caribbean continues to grow, these ecosystems continue to decline.
WRI and the Marine Ecosystem Services Partnership (MESP) took a closer look at the impact of previous economic valuation studies in the Caribbean. Out of more than 200 studies of the economic value of the Caribbean’s marine ecosystem goods and services, we were only able to identify 13 that actually influenced marine and coastal management policies, such as those in Bonaire, St. Maarten, and Belize.
Across the Caribbean, national economies are heavily dependent on coastal ecosystem services. Coral reefs, mangroves, and other coastal ecosystems provide fish habitat, attract tourists, and protect shorelines from storm damage. However, coastal habitats continue to degrade
The World Resources Institute produced the report in close collaboration with the USAID-funded Coral Triangle Support Partnership (CTSP).
Ecosystems provide businesses with numerous benefits or "ecosystem services." Forests supply timber and wood fiber, purify water, regulate climate, and yield genetic resources. River systems provide freshwater, power, and recreation.
Coral reefs provide a diverse array of goods and services to the people and economy of Jamaica. They help to build and protect Jamaica’s beautiful white sand beaches, which attract tourists from around the world.
Coral reefs provide significant value to the Jamaican economy, including tourism, fisheries and shoreline protection, according to new analysis released today.
WRI's Lauretta Burke discusses her work on measuring the economic value of coral reefs in the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean countries.
Coastal and marine ecosystems provide many valuable services to the people and economy of the Dominican Republic. At first glance, these benefits can be difficult to see.
The World Bank and other Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) are revising their environmental strategies for development planning.
Despite projections, many financial analysts ignore the risks and opportunities associated with environmental trends. ENVEST seeks to change this.
Payments for ecosystem services are becoming an increasingly important part of the U.S. business and regulatory landscape. As programs that provide payments for ecosystem services grow, policy makers will need to determine how these various payments should interact with each other.
Multilateral development bank (MDB) development services can benefit from incorporating a more systematic approach to managing ecosystems in their strategic priority setting, analytical advisory servi
In the 1980s, Thailand’s government, initially supported by the World Bank, focused on a single ecosystem service—aquaculture—to supply a growing frozen shrimp export industry.
Humanity depends on nature for physical and spiritual sustenance, livelihoods, and survival. Ecosystems provide numerous benefits or “ecosystem services” that underpin economic development and support human well-being.