Newsletter No 4 December 2012

What’s Bonaire’s Nature Worth?


With more than 50% of the economy dependent on healthy ecosystems, Bonaire has a vast interest in managing nature in a sustainable manner. The first step in moving towards a greener economy is to value the importance of the main ecosystem services provided by Bonaire's nature. In an all-encompassing study, IVM researchers and partners analyzed the links between the local economy and the ecology of the island. The valuable insights not only generated a series of informative reports but also illustrated its findings through a breathtaking documentary.

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The Challenge
Healthy ecosystems such as coral reefs and mangroves are critical to Bonairean society. In the last decades, various local and global developments are causing serious threats to these fragile ecosystems of Bonaire, thereby jeopardizing the foundations of the island’s economy. It is crucial to understand how nature contributes to Bonaire’s economy and its wellbeing in order to make well-founded decisions when managing the economy and nature of this beautiful tropical island. This research aims to determine the economic value of the main ecosystem services that are provided by the natural resources of Bonaire and their overall importance to society. The challenge of this project is to deliver sound scientific insights that will guide decision-making regarding the protection and management of the fragile ecosystems.

The Approach
By assigning economic values to the main ecosystem services of Bonaire, this research draws attention to the economic benefits of biodiversity and highlights the growing costs of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation. The study addresses the most relevant ecosystems and ecosystem services for Bonaire and applies a multitude of economic valuation and evaluation tools. By surveying over 1,500 people, including tourists, fishermen, local residents, and citizens of the Netherlands, this study estimated the willingness of individuals to pay for the protection of Bonairean nature, as well as mechanisms (e.g. user fees) through which such payments would be transferred. Furthermore, a scenario analysis is conducted to inform decision makers about the most effective strategies to protect the ecosystems of Bonaire. This study intensively involved stakeholders from the start to finish. This public engagement facilitated data collection while simultaneously building capacity to apply the concept of ecosystem services among the target audience.

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The Results
In total, more than 10 different services have been valued in monetary terms. The sum of the ecosystem services provided by the marine and terrestrial ecosystems of Bonaire (i.e. Total Economic Value - TEV) has an economic value of $105 million. This TEV and its underlying insights are used to build a strategy to advocate for the effective conservation measures on Bonaire. After applying the values of the ecosystem services in an extensive scenario analysis one conclusion is obvious: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In other words, it is more efficient to prevent extensive environmental damage than trying to revitalize the environment while there are still threats at hand. With the current threats unmanaged, the TEV of Bonairean nature will decrease from $105 million today to around $60 million in ten years time and to less than $40 million in 30 years. The project is well documented through a number of extensive research reports, five accessible policy briefs and a beautiful documentary in which   the scientific results are translated into real life situations on Bonaire.

For more information see: What’s Bonaire’s nature worth?

Watch the video: