Keeping ecosystems healthy makes economic sense and is vital to control climate change© chingtc (stck.xchng)
The role of healthy ecosystems and biodiversity for a more sustainable economy
Nature's capacity to provide vital services and functions such as freshwater, benign climate and natural ecosystems for recreational activities is often cheaper to sustain than having to invest in technological solutions to compensate for lost functions. Protecting and restoring biodiversity is also an essential step in the transition to a more sustainable economy and protecting ecosystems can be a very cost effective measure to this purpose. This is confirmed by a report to policy makers presented by The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) project, a major independent global study providing an economic angle to an environmental topic.
While the societal and economic benefits of healthy ecosystems are increasingly recognised, it is important to provide sound scientific definitions of ecosystem services. Most of the current measures and indicators of biodiversity and ecosystems were developed for purposes other than economic assessment and can therefore not show clear relationships between components of ecosystems, their biodiversity and the services or benefits they provide to people. The corresponding lack of relevant information at different scales is still hampering the ability to fully assess the economic consequences of the loss of ecosystems and biodiversity.
The JRC Institute for Environment and Sustainability (IES), which has contributed to the TEEB report through work on "Measuring biophysical quantities and the use of indicators", is strengthening its research efforts on understanding the properties of healthy ecosystems, methods for assessing land cover changes as well as the status of the marine environment around the world. The science-based mapping of ecosystem services, which logically comes before any useful economic evaluation will be an important aspect in IES' work programme 2010. Such information is of key importance for monitoring the sustainable use of natural resources.