Reef worth €8trn in ‘services to people’

Earth Index report shows bees contribute €144bn to economy

Coral reefs are worth £6trn (€8trn) a year in services they provide for people, almost four times as much as the UK economy, an assessment of the value of natural assets has found.

The Earth Index drawn up for BBC Earth also found bees contributed £106bn (€144bn) to the world economy in pollinating crops, and that vultures were worth £1.6bn for clearing up animal carcasses and preventing human health hazards.

Vultures are an example of the price of losing nature, with the birds suffering severe declines across the Indian subcontinent due to a veterinary drug which is lethal to them.

The declines led to an increase in feral dogs which spread rabies, causing an estimated 50,000 more deaths, and significant clean-up costs.

The assessment even puts a price on the value of freshwater of almost £46trn a year, the equivalent of the entire world economy as without freshwater the economy would not exist.

Coral reefs were worth £6.2trn in protection from storms, providing fish, tourism and storing carbon emissions, compared with the £1.7trn value of the UK economy and almost three times the annual price-tag of oil at just under £2.2trn.

The Earth Index is being published in the financial sections of newspapers around the world to put nature on the stock exchange.

Neil Nightingale, creative director of BBC Earth said: “When you see the figures in black and white it’s illuminating to see that the annual revenues of the world’s most successful companies, Apple, General Motors, Nestle, Bank of China, all pale in comparison to the financial return to our economy from natural assets.”

Fish are worth £171bn and plankton, which form the basis of food webs in the world’s oceans, have a value of £139bn a year for their role in storing carbon alone.

The index is based on a study of existing data, and aims to pilot a model for reporting the financial contribution nature makes to the global economy.

Canada’s polar bears are worth £6.3bn, while in the UK, the value of nature has been estimated at £1.5trn, with soils generating £5.3bn a year and bees generating £651m.

Meanwhile, thousands of square kilometres of coral reef could be killed in a major ‘bleaching’ event brought on by warming temperatures in the ocean, scientists have said.

The global coral bleaching event, only the third such incident in recorded history, could affect 38% of the world’s coral reefs and destroy 12,000sq km of reef, the researchers said.


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