«The Economic and Social Aspects of Biodiversity Benefits and Costs of Biodiversity in Ireland REPORT PREPARED BY: CRAIG BULLOCK, OPTIMIZE CONSULTANTS ...»
The Economic and Social Aspects
Benefits and Costs of Biodiversity
REPORT PREPARED BY:
CRAIG BULLOCK, OPTIMIZE CONSULTANTS
CONOR KRETSCH, COHAB INITIATIVE SECRETARIAT
ENDA CANDON, FIRST WESTERN
BAILE ÁTHA CLIATH
ARNA FHOILSIÚ AG OIFIG AN TSOLÁTHAIR
LE CEANNACH DÍREACH ÓN
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Price: 20.00 ISBN NO: 978-1-4064-2105-7 © Government of Ireland 2008 Contents Pag e A c k n ow l e d g e m e n t s 3
E X E C U T I V E S U M M A RY 5
1. I N T R O D U C T I ON Biodiversity: Economic and Social Aspects 12
2. A N OV E RV I E W O F P O L I C Y A N D L E G I S LAT I ON 20
3. E CO S YS T E M S E RV I C E S I N AG R I C U LT U R E 34
3.1 The relationship between agriculture and biodiversity 34
3.2 Pollination 39
3.3 Soil micro-organisms, invertebrates and fungi 43
3.4 Pest control 48
3.5 Implications of biodiversity loss in agriculture 51
Acknowledgements POLICY Stefan Leiner, EC, DG Environment Kaliemani Jo Mulongoy, Convention on Biological Diversity
A G R I C U LT U R ETom Bolger, University College Dublin Olaf Schmidt, University College Dublin Helen Sheridan, University College Dublin Marcus Collier, University College Dublin Salvatore Di Falco, University of Kent John Finn,Teagasc, Stan Lalor,Teagasc John Humphries,Teagasc Patricia Kelly Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food Clare Timmins, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food Richard Gregg, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food Annette Anderson, UCD F O R E S T RY Mark Wilson, University College Cork.
Pat Neville, Coillte.
Carol Rynn, Coillte.
Michael Keane, Coillte.
George Whelan, Smartply Limited.
Gerry Long, Forest Service.
Caitriona Douglas, NPWS MARINE Geoffrey Robinson, Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) Michael Keatinge, BIM Patricia Comiskey, BIM Liam Costello, BIM Majella Fitzsimons, BIM Leonie Dransfield, Marine Institute Liz Sides, NPWS WAT E R Mary Kelly-Quinn, University College Dublin Martin McGarrigle, Environmental Protection Agency Carthage Cusack, Rural Water Section, Department of the Environment, Ballina.
H U M A N W E L FA R EDanny Campbell, Queens University Belfast Stephen Hynes,Teagasc Thomas Van Rensburg, NUI Galway H E A LT H Willian Bird, Natural England Barbara Burlingame, Food & Agricultural Organization Jeremy Cherfas and Emile Frison, Bioversity International Peter Daszak and Alonso Agurre,Wildlife Trust, New York & Int Ecohealth Assoc.
Chris Shaw, Queens University Belfast William Karesh,Wildlife Conservation Society C L I M AT E Rowan Fealy, ICARUS, National University of Ireland Maynooth John Sweeney, ICARUS, NUI Maynooth Biodiversity Forum
This report has been commissioned by the Biodiversity Unit of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to identify the nature and scale of benefits that we, as a society, derive from biodiversity. It is important that public goods, including those supplied by nature, are reflected in decision making. It is also important to ensure that the benefits of policies which protect biodiversity are at least commensurate with the costs of such policies. While the scope of this report is far from comprehensive and can only aspire here to a preliminary assessment, it is clear that the benefits of biodiversity far exceed the costs of current levels of biodiversity protection.
Biodiversity is commonly understood to include the number, variety and variability of organisms living on Earth. We have become accustomed to having decisions of protecting nature, or allowing economic development, being presented as an either/or choice. However, as our knowledge of ecology has developed, so too has our realisation that human beings have a dependence on ecological systems. Gradually, this realisation is filtering through to policy makers, particularly now that climate change looks likely to exacerbate the challenges facing both biodiversity and economic development. Consequently, ‘biodiversity protection’ appears largely to be replacing references to conservation. This reflects not just a tendency to adopt the latest fashionable terminology, but is based on a significant difference in the interpretation of the two terms. As environmentalist and broadcaster Dick Warner recently observed,1 ‘biodiversity’ implies that we protect species, not for their sake, but for our own.
Human activity has always had an impact on biodiversity, but in recent centuries this impact has intensified to a position where we are in danger of undermining the primary functions of natural systems and to an extent that could ultimately threaten our own future. Losses of biodiversity have resulted from the destruction of natural habitats, over-exploitation of resources, pollution and changes in the composition of ecosystems due, for example, to the accidental or deliberate introduction of non-native species.
Loss of biodiversity is our loss. The incentive to protect biodiversity does not simply arise from a benevolence towards the natural world. Rather, a high level of biodiversity also ensures that we are supplied with the ‘ecosystem services’ that are essential to the sustainability of our standard of living and to our survival. This report details a range of critical ecosystem services on which we depend in various economic and social sectors. In agriculture, these include the maintenance of soil structure and the supply of nutrients, pollination and pest control. For water supply, it includes the filtering and purification of rivers and lakes, including the decomposition of our own pollutants and waste. In the marine sector, there is the obvious direct benefit of a fish catch, but this harvest itself depends on food chains and habitats provided by a robust functioning level of biodiversity.
‘Wings’ Spring 2007, Birdwatch Ireland Crucially, our own health depends on biodiversity, for example as a source of pharmaceutical raw materials, but also in terms of the quality of the food that we eat, opportunities for physical exercise and resistance to disease. The benefits extend to our well-being and quality of life. Not only are we attracted to scenic landscapes that are largely the product of biodiversity, but most of us also value environments and wildlife in their own right, often irrespective of whether we have ever visited or seen them - or, indeed, expect to.
We can mislead ourselves by believing that our agriculture or fisheries can get by without biodiversity. For the past fifty years or more our farming has been sustained by high levels of fertilizers and pesticides, our timber and pulp is provided by plantation forests supplied with a similar intensive diet of inputs, and our wild fisheries can be substituted by aquaculture. Similarly, we have developed a large number of synthetic drugs with which to fight most diseases and we know or rather before MRSA, thought we knew - how to kill pathogens to ensure high standards of hygiene.
However, very few if any of these activities can be undertaken without some input from natural biodiversity. Furthermore, their long-term sustainability is being compromised by the depletion of ecosystem services or cumulative pollution. Even now, we are peddling harder to stay put as we are forced to replace ecosystem services that we once took for granted. No longer can farmers be sure that their crops will be reliably fertilized by bees. Nor can we still assume that our domestic sewerage will be recycled into the natural environment without accumulating in groundwater or watercourses. In such circumstances, the last news we need to hear is that climate change could yet further undermine the natural systems on which we still depend.
V a l u i n g B i o d i ve rs i t y
Putting a value on biodiversity is no easy task. In recent times, economists have developed techniques to place a monetary value on many aspects of the environment, sometimes to the consternation of ecologists. Nevertheless, everybody would agree that there are some things which are too fundamental or too complex to value in a meaningful way. Ultimately, our survival depends on a functioning biodiversity. Even though we may have habitually taken ecosystem services for granted, they are of potentially infinite value to human society.
For practical purposes, what matters is knowing the approximate marginal value of key ecosystem services at the present time. That is, the value of biodiversity in terms of the incremental benefits or goods to which it contributes. Even in this respect, valuation is a challenging exercise in that we need some understanding of the proportion of these benefits or goods for which ecosystem services are responsible.
A marginal value allows us to begin to determine how much we should be spending on biodiversity protection. If we have an angle on the benefits, then we can assess how far these benefits exceed the amounts that are currently being spent on relevant policies, or vice-versa. Naturally, we also need to know how effective those policies are. Typically, such policies benefit not only biodiversity, but have other purposes such as providing for recreation or protection of the landscape.
The report presents an assessment of the benefits of selected ecosystem services in the principal social and economic sectors. Although only a preliminary estimate is proffered, the current marginal value of ecosystems services in Ireland in terms of their contribution to productive output and human utility is estimated at over 2.6 billion per annum. This is, however, an estimate that rests on only a few key examples and which necessarily omits other significant services such as the waste assimilation by aquatic biodiversity and benefits to human health.
Despite the prevalence of artificial fertilisers and pesticides, agriculture would be impossible without essential ecosystem services. Biodiversity is essential in the breakdown and recycling of nutrients within the soil. A huge variety of innumerable creatures perform this service, of which we use the example of earthworms as a keystone species. Biodiversity is also essential to the pollination on which a wide range of crops, including forage plants, depend. It is also vital to pest control, without which productivity losses would be far greater. Each of these services is threatened to one extent or another by excessive use of artificial inputs, pollution, non-native alien species, removal of seminatural habitat or the use of heavy machinery.
Where biodiversity is diminished by inappropriate farming methods, so the need for expenditure on artificial inputs is increased and the prospect for sustainable agriculture recedes. One indication of the value of biodiversity could be provided by the increasing amounts that would need to be spent on these inputs to substitute for ecosystem services together with the external costs of pollution or damage to health that arises from excessive use of fertilizers or pesticides.
Alternatively, the value of biodiversity can be represented by the potential value of output from sustainable systems in which the use of artificial inputs is moderated. Even for Ireland’s largely grassland based farming, this value is substantial. This report places a tentative value on the services of the soil biota to nutrient assimilation and recycling of 1 billion per year. Greater reliance on pollination, for example for the more extensive production of clover-based forage or the production of oilseed for biofuels, could raise the value of this ecosystem service to 220 million per year or even 500 million per year. The value of baseline pest control is worth at least 20 million per year before savings on pesticides of perhaps a further 2 million. Estimates of the public utility benefits of the current external benefits of sustainable farming, for example landscape and wildlife habitats, have been put at 150 million per year, but would surely rise significantly if these benefits applied to all farms and were accompanied by improved water quality or health benefits.
Forestry Commercial forestry depends similarly on nutrient recycling and pest control. Some forests also retain a value for hunting or a collection of wild food (e.g. fungi). In addition, many forests, natural or commercial, are important for human utility, as amenities for recreation and habitats for wildlife.
As in agriculture, these forest ecosystem services are threatened by the same mix of intensification of production, pollution and alien species, the latter including some serious pests. At present, the level of ecosystem services is valued at 55 million per year, but this has the potential to rise to 80 million per year if more environmentally sensitive forestry is practiced, or more should the area of broad-leaf trees be expanded.