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Pricing up ecosystems

$1bn of benefits identified in four pilot countries’ ecosystems
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A project designed to bring the economic value of ecosystems into government policies has identified almost $1bn of benefits in four pilot countries.

ProEcoServ, the four-year flagship project of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), included four pilot countries: South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, Vietnam and Chile.

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The value of ecosystems

From soil retention services worth $622 million in Trinidad and Tobago to $166 million in savings through an ecosystem service-based disaster risk approach in South Africa, the project’s final report adds further weight to the body of evidence proving ecosystems are crucial to sustainable development.

‘The true value of ecosystems is frequently misrepresented in markets and economic decision-making. But the real economies that underpin our societies are themselves fundamentally rooted in the natural world.

‘While ecosystems provide multiple health, scientific and aesthetic benefits, we must enhance our capacity to also reflect their economic value to national and local communities.

Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director

The findings

Some of the benefits the ProEcoServ project uncovered are detailed below.

Trinidad and Tobago

The project identified soil retention services worth up to $622 million annually in the northern range tropical forests in northern Trinidad – equivalent to 6% of governmental tax revenue.

Coral reefs provide up to $49.6 million of shoreline protection services annually to the national economy.

South Africa

In the Eden District of South Africa, an area affected by natural disasters of floods, wildfires and droughts, financial savings of up to $160 million were identified in the 2003-2008 public budget.

400,000 jobs could be created in South Africa from ecosystem restoration activities.


In the Ca Mau province, 45,523 hectares of mangroves generate ecosystem services worth up to $1,560 – 2,985 per hectare, per year.

Of this, up to $1,720 comes from carbon sequestration.


Data from an Earth Observation System, a satellite-based information system, was combined with data on tourism flows collected from internet-based platforms to assemble information on water and ecotourism systems in Chile.

Influencing policy

The findings have helped to ensure that ecosystem services are integrated into national policies.

In South Africa, for example, the role of ecosystem services is now recognised as a part of an ecological infrastructure, with an active contribution to the $93 billion National Infrastructure Development Plan.

In Vietnam, the project’s findings were used in land-use planning at the Ca Mau province level, the National Green Growth Strategy to 2020 and the National Strategy for Environmental Protection to 2020.

In Chile, one of the results was the first-ever tourism development plan for the Municipality of San Pedro de Atacama, which recognises the role of ecosystem services in sustainable land and tourism management in one of the driest landscape in the world.

‘The recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals recognise that the heath of the global commons is essential to achieving our development ambitions.

‘It is vital that decision-makers at all levels – from communities to corporations to cabinets – take the true value of ecosystem services into account in their decision making to ensure sustainable use of our planet’s finite environmental resources. The findings from the four country pilots in the ProEcoServ project are an exciting first step in the process.’

Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility

Click here to read the full ProEcoServ report.

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