Estimating the Economic Cost of Losing Wetlands Globally

The economic assessment of ecosystem services helps decision makers understand their value to society and the cost of their loss or the benefit of their conservation. The value of ecosystem services is therefore the relative contribution of natural capital in interaction with built, social, and human capital, to sustainable human wellbeing (1). 

From the reefs of the Coral Sea to the Exuma mangrove forests of the Bahamas, wetlands provide many valuable ecosystem services to humanity, having helped sustain life on earth for millions of years. Wetlands provide many ecosystem services such as food, raw materials, climate regulation, pollution control, coastal erosion protection, recreational opportunities, spiritual experiences, to name a few. The global economic value of the ecosystems they provide has been estimated as $47.4 trillion per year, 43.5% of the value of all natural biomes (2). Identifying and valuing the  benefits that wetlands provide will help humans understand the importance of conserving and restoring these ecosystems. 

With the generous support of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, CSF is conducting a novel research on the cost of losing wetlands around the world, consolidating information on the direct and indirect economic costs resulting from the loss and degradation of wetland ecosystem services since ~1970, and historically. This research will also assess the ‘future loss’ of wetlands based on available projections such as the Wetland Extent Trends (WET) index. Furthermore, the study will also present information on the scale of financing required to restore and/or conserve these ecosystems and describe the range of financial mechanisms that may be necessary for addressing these management strategies for wetlands.

(1)  Costanza, R., Cumberland, J. H., Daly, H., Goodland, R., Norgaard, R. B., Kubiszewski, I., & Franco, C. (2014). An introduction to ecological economics. CRC Press. 
Turner, K. G., Anderson, S., Gonzales-Chang, M., Costanza, R., Courville, S., Dalgaard, T., Dominati, E., Kubiszewski, I., Ogilvy, S., Porfirio, L., & others. (2016). A review of methods, data, and models to assess changes in the value of ecosystem services from land degradation and restoration. Ecological Modelling, 319, 190–207.

(2) Davidson, N. C., Van Dam, A. A., Finlayson, C. M., & McInnes, R. J. (2019). Worth of wetlands: Revised global monetary values of coastal and inland wetland ecosystem services. Marine and Freshwater Research, 70(8), 1189–1194.

Photo credit: Marcello Hernández-Blanco