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Value of Forests

Photo credit: Alvaro del Campo CIMA

Forests are more than simply a collection of trees.

They are their own incredible, interlinked communities: not only do their roots, leaves, and branches carry silent messages between themselves and even other trees, but they also help to clean the world’s polluted atmosphere.

Trees and the ecosystem

Forests absorb and store large amounts of carbon, and by doing so they reduce the carbon concentration in the atmosphere. This is why they’re so important in helping to slow down the effects of climate change.

And forests regulate and filter water. They anchor soil and prevent erosion in rain- or flood-prone areas. They improve agricultural conditions, protect biodiversity and nurture thousands of species that carry out environmentally critical roles, such as pollination.

And on top of all this, forests supply resources like timber, bark, seeds, fruit, oils and even medicines.

Learn more about everything that forests give us

Valuing the role of trees

Some of these ecosystem services can even be priced and valued. We can do this by looking at the direct influence of forests on related costs, or to compare the ‘service’ a forest provides against the cost of providing it some other way. So, for example:

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Biodiversity

Healthy forests support biodiversity, and biodiversity keeps the forest running. The variety of species of plants, animals, insects, and birds all play a special and specific role within the forest. The larger and more varied the biodiversity is, the greater the chance that one species can take on a critical role if anything happens to another.

Biodiversity also refers to the individual variety within each of those species. With a larger and more varied population, there is more chance of adapting or developing traits that the entire species needs. In other words, diversity keeps the species healthy and evolving.

This is called resilience, because it means the species has a better chance of overcoming shocks.

The value of forests

It’s hard to price biodiversity because everything is so interlinked. But it’s been shown that less biodiversity means less functional ecosystems – and generally, fewer ecosystem services too1.

But a natural forest should not be valued purely by its financial worth. Many aspects of nature are priceless with an inherent value that can’t be named or counted. But often, putting a price on the benefits they provide does help to appreciate and illustrate just how valuable they really are, and crucially, to protect them for the future.

Estimates suggest that conserving all terrestrial ecosystems would cost us $76.1 billion per year2. A huge amount of money, but right now lost ecosystem services from land degradation and desertification cost us about $6.3-10.6 trillion every year3.

Reclaiming those ecosystem services would give an 8,200% rate of return at the low end. Which proves that protecting our environment really is the soundest investment we can make.

At Ecosphere+

We know first-hand how valuable our forests are when they are living and thriving. Paying for the carbon stored in them is one way of putting a value on the services they provide.

We work to help scale private sector and consumer investment to protect trees and place a true value on the benefits we get from forests.

[1] European Commission (2015) ‘Ecosystem Services and the Environment’. Science for Environment Policy, Report 11, DG ENV.; Lefcheck, J. et al. (2015) ‘Biodiversity enhances ecosystem multifunctionality across trophic levels and habitats’. Nature Communications, v.6, p.6936.

[2] McCarthy, D. et al. (2012) ‘Financial costs of meeting global biodiversity conservation targets: Current spending and unmet needs’. Science, v.338, pp.946–949.

[3] IUCN (2015) Issues brief: Land degradation and climate change.