Boosting biodiversity can boost global economy

A new and more intelligent pact between humanity and the Earth's economically-important life-support systems is urgently needed in 2010, the head of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said today.

Speaking at the launch of the UN's International Year of Biodiversity in Berlin today, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP's Executive Director Achim Steiner said that an unprecedented scientific, economic, political and public awareness effort was needed to reverse-and to stop- the loss of the planet's natural assets.

These losses include its biodiversity such as animal and plant species and the planet's ecosystems and their multi-trillion dollar services arising from forests and freshwater to soils and coral reefs.

'The words biodiversity and ecosystems might seem abstract and remote to many people. But there is nothing abstract about their role in economies and in the lives of billions of people,' said Mr. Steiner at the meeting hosted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

'Take coral reefs for example. The range of benefits generated by these ecosystems and the biodiversity underpinning them are all too often invisible and mainly undervalued by those in charge of national economies and international development support,' he added.

The latest estimates by The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) study, which UNEP hosts, indicates that coral reefs generate annually up to US$189,000 per hectare in terms of coastal defenses and other areas of 'natural hazard management'.

'In terms of diving and other tourism revenues, the annual services generated equate to perhaps US$1 million; genetic materials and bio-prospecting, up to US$57,000 per hectare annually and fisheries, up to US$3,800 per hectare per year,' explained Mr. Steiner.

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