Valuing natural capital
Nature provides innumerable services that underpin food security, human well-being and indeed, the global economy. These services are rarely valued in terms that can be entered into economic debates within national planning processes and, lacking visible value, they are often traded away inappropriately. If biodiversity and ecosystem services are to be incorporated into decision-making processes, they must be described in terms that decision makers can understand and use.
UNEP-WCMC recognizes that not all values are monetary: biodiversity has intrinsic and cultural values beyond economics. We are exploring both monetary and non-monetary approaches to valuation but, if we want to engage decision makers from all sectors and encourage them to account for natural capital, we must frame the issues in terms of our main global indicator of value: money.
Our work to value ecosystem services includes identifying and mapping the multiple benefits available to countries that participate in international initiatives to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+). We use existing and new data to map the distribution and changes in carbon in tropical countries and we have published widely used outputs on carbon mapping in forests, soils and the marine environment, across the world.
We are also building datasets at global and regional scales on other ecosystem services including water, timber, non-timber forest products and ecotourism. We coordinated the UK National Ecosystem Assessment, which is widely regarded as the most comprehensive national assessment of ecosystem service values available.
See also our featured work on Assessing the United Kingdom's ecosystems.