Forests provide $250B in environmental services

by Caroline Brown

A new study by a Canadian ecological economist shows that intact forests in northern nations provide approximately $250 billion in environmental services to those countries:

It estimated that services provided by intact forests in filtering water and waste, providing habitats for animals and plants, capturing greenhouse gases and attracting tourists were worth about $250 billion a year.

For example, researcher Mark Anielski said that forests help counter global warming by storing an estimated 67 billion tons of carbon in Canada alone–nearly eight times the amount of carbon produced by human activities worldwide in 2000.

Anielski says that the problem with the conventional government accounting practices is that they show that forests provide economic value only as building materials or pulp. He suggests that governments look instead at economic value of intact forests, instead of their material value. It would appear that governments can’t see the forest for the lumber.

“This natural capital should be in the balance sheets of nations,” he said.


“If these ecosystem services were counted in Canada, they would amount to roughly 9 percent of GDP,” he said. Countries including Sweden, Austria, Switzerland, Greece and Algeria have annual gross domestic product (GDP) of around $250 billion.

It’s my understanding that ecological economics is a growing trend in pro-environment circles. Wouldn’t it be great if all natural resources were valued for their environmental value instead of their material value?

Photo courtesy of WWW-UK.


4 Comments to “Forests provide $250B in environmental services”

  1. I love reports like this, not because I think the dollar value is a true reflection of the value of intact trees and forests, but because those dollar values are what make changes in the “big lakes” by the big fish: the governments, corporations, and decision-making groups who ultimately decide the fate of large swaths of forest habitat.

    I was recently reading a similar report about the economic value of in-tact forests adjacent to coffee plantations… the “free” pollination provided by the local wild pollinators provides an ENORMOUS economic benefit to the coffee industry.

  2. yep, it’s kind of sad that environmentalism isn’t appealing based merely on the concept of taking care of our planet, but money talks.

  3. To look at the environmental or economic value instead of material value…I like that, though I too find it somewhat disturbing that a dollar value must be placed on everything. If it gets people to leave the forests intact, it’s “worth” it. 🙂

  4. I totally agree with Michelle, it’s not always just the dollar value that counts.

    Thanks for this informative post C.

    BFN, G

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: