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    World Bank: Coastal and Marine Ecosystem Services Severely Undervalued

    By Keith R | April 6, 2009

    Topics: Economics & the Environment, Environmental Services, Marine/Coastal Issues | No Comments »

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    From the World Bank:

    Coastal and Marine Ecosystem Services Severely Undervalued

    Properly valuing coastal and marine ecosystem services is critical to sustainable development, according to the World Bank publication “Environment Matters 2008” launched today.

    Titled: “Valuing Coastal and Marine Ecosystem Services”, the review argues that while we recognize that the ocean provides vast quantities of food, offers enormous recreational values, and stores carbon – what is a critical service in an era of climate change – these services so vital for humankind have been treated as “free goods,” and the ecosystems that provide them are rapidly deteriorating through overuse, pollution, and physical destruction.

    “People still ask me, ‘Why do we need the ocean.’ I say, ‘Well, I suppose we could live on Venus, or Mars.’ We don’t adequately appreciate the ocean, but we’re greatly changing it. What we’re just realizing is how those changes are already affecting people, stability, and prospects for peace,” said Carl Safina, Co-founder and President of Blue Ocean Institute, as he delivered a keynote address during the launch event in Washington, D.C.

    Valuation of indirect ecosystem services such as the regulating role of coastal and marine resources in providing habitat for fish, as a receptor for wastewater, or to control beach erosion, is weak. Our inability to adequately capture and account for these values, has greatly jeopardized the health of marine ecosystems and their ability to continue to provide essential services in fisheries productivity, tourism amenities, coastal protection, and CO2 uptake.

    “The Ocean does matter, and coastal and marine ecosystems do matter in the grand scheme of things. Their importance is vital here and now to our mission of poverty alleviation and sustainable development. We are determined to stop under-investing in coastal and marine management, and to protect vital ecosystem processes. Because, quite simply, we will have a tough time living without them,” said Katherine Sierra, World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development.

    The annual contribution of ocean ecosystem goods and services to the global economy has been estimated to exceed $20 trillion. Nonmarket values such as biodiversity and climate regulation are incalculable, and the spiritual worth of an intact seascape and the wonder of a coral reef are impossible to quantify.

    The last two decades have seen a rapid loss of critical wetlands and coral reefs. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization reports that 20 percent of the world’s mangroves were lost between 1980 and 2005. Some 16 percent of the world’s coral reefs died in the wake of widespread coral bleaching tied to the El Niño events of 1997. Under a business-as-usual scenario, scientists warn that we may witness the disappearance of coral reefs by mid-century.

    Climate change now threatens to push many of these systems over the edge, with severe consequences for society, but especially the world’s poor. Coastal and marine ecosystems play a complex and vital role in supporting economic prosperity and social welfare in developing countries. As we progress further into the 21st century, the importance of these coastal and marine resources is certain to increase.

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