ecosystems are beautiful ecosystems, and that healthy ecosystems are essential for the future of life on earth, but what people don’t realise is that healthy ecosystems can also have massive economic benefits to a country. When it comes down to it, most of humanity’s non-mineral resources are derived from (or at least begin with) different species processes at a basic level. In fact, according to some scientists and other people who understand ecosystem processes, “One hundred percent of economic activity is dependent on the services and benefits provided by nature”[sc:1]. If this is true, then of course healthy ecosystems benefit the economy. Here are just a few examples of how:
Healthy ecosystems absorb more carbon
Usually (not in every case, but in most), healthy ecosystems have a higher biomass and a greater carbon absorbing ability. With this in mind, it is obviously extremely important to do whatever we can to improve ecosystem function, as this will help mitigate the effects of global warming and climate change. According to a study commissioned by the government of the UK in 2008, halving deforestation (and therefore stopping ecosystem degradation) could have economic benefits amounting to around $3.7 trillion. Yes, trillion[sc:2]!
Most of these benefits would come from the reduced cost of climate change due to it causing less damage and progressing much slower than it otherwise would. In this case, the $3.7 trillion wouldn’t be seen as money in anyone’s bank account, but it would instead be the reduced amount of spending needed to mitigate the effects of climate change[sc:2].
Pest and disease control
Healthy ecosystems also have huge functions in preventing agricultural pests and diseases. If the trophic levels of natural systems are honoured in farms or plantations, then economic benefits come from two places: firstly, the need for chemicals is reduced, saving money (and potentially also reducing the need for healthcare due to illness caused by these chemicals), secondly, the crop yield will be higher than it otherwise would have been[sc:1].
A good example of this is birds controlling insects in coffee, apple, and timber plantations. Apple yields in the Netherlands are increased by an estimated 50% due to caterpillar predation[sc:3]. Birds in the eastern Cascades are saving about $46,000 per square kilometer per year by consuming timber eating insects, thus protecting the timber[sc:4]. Insectivorous birds in coffee plantations save the owner an estimated $310 per hectare per year[sc:5].
Healthy ecosystems mean that there is a lot of bees (and other insects) available to pollinate crops and other plants. According to the results of various studies over the past decades, the economic benefit of pollination amounts to around 153 billion Euros every single year. In Europe alone, pollination is worth around 22 billion Euros a year[sc:6].
Genetic diversity and medicinal research
Genetic diversity and the unique genetic makeup of a number of relatively unknown species has contributed an immense amount of knowledge to various medical studies. In fact, it has been estimated that around of half of the various medicines and other treatments available today have been developed through the study of various animals or other organisms – which we may not have or have had without healthy ecosystems[sc:7].