The cash needed to conserve the world's species is a small price for biodiversity's “goods and services”, researchers say.
Protecting all the world's threatened species will cost around US$4 billion a year, according to an estimate published today in Science1. If that number is not staggering enough, the scientists behind the work also report that effectively conserving the significant areas these species live in could rack up a bill of more than $76 billion a year.
Study leader Stuart Butchart, a conservation scientist at BirdLife International in Cambridge, UK, admits that the numbers seem very large. But “in terms of government budgets, they’re quite trivial”, he says, adding that governments have already committed to taking this action in international treaties — they just did not know how much it would cost.
The researchers also point out that the annual costs of proper conservation are but a fraction of the value of nature's ‘ecosystem services’, such as pollination of crops and carbon sinks, estimated at between $2 trillion and $6 trillion. “These sums are not bills, they’re investments in natural capital,” says Butchart. “They’re dwarfed by the benefits we get back from nature.”