Potsdam Initiative: Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity

1 10 2008

moneygamiA recent report from the European Union with which I was marginally involved has been published online.

The meeting of the environment ministers of the G8 countries and upcoming industrialising countries took part in what has been dubbed the ‘Potsdam Initiative‘ have commissioned a series of reports on the ‘Economic significance of the global loss of biological diversity’.

I quote:

‘In a global study we will initiate the process of analysing the global economic benefit of biological diversity, the costs of the loss of biodiversity and the failure to take protective measures versus the costs of effective conservation.’

The first stage was the report was entitled ‘The Economics of Ecosystems & Biodiversity (TEEB)’. Mr Pavan Sukhdev, Managing Director and Head of Deutsche Bank’s Global Markets business in India, and a Founder-Director of the ‘Green Accounting for Indian States Project’, an initiative of the Green Indian States Trust (GIST) to set up an economic valuation and national accounting framework to measure sustainability for India, was recently appointed as the independent Study Leader.

The overall aims of the study are to evaluate the costs of the loss of biodiversity and the associated decline in ecosystem services, and to compare them with the costs of effective conservation and ‘sustainable’ use. The overall aim is to increase awareness of the value of biodiversity and ecosystem services to facilitate the development of cost-effective policy responses to the problem.

The interim report is available here, and the final report will be published shortly on the dedicated website here. The title of the final report of the first phase is THE ECONOMICS OF ECOSYSTEMS AND BIODIVERSITY: SCOPING THE SCIENCE.

I was involved specifically in Section 4.13 ‘Regulation of Natural Hazards’ which are defined ‘as infrequent natural phenomena that – during a relatively short period of time – pose a high level of threat to [human] life, health or property. These include seismic events (volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis), extreme weather events (hurricanes, floods), avalanches and land slides. My contribution was mainly with respect to the role of deforestation on flood risk.

The report was jointly prepared by Ana Rodrigues and Andrew Balmford.

CJA Bradshaw

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Native forests reduce the risk of catastrophic floods

20 08 2008

A-Pakistan-Army-helicopte-004Each year extreme floods kill or displace hundreds of thousands of people and cause billions of dollars in damage to property. The consequences of floods are particularly catastrophic in developing countries generally lacking the infrastructure to deal adequately with above-average water levels.

For centuries it has been believed that native forest cover reduced the risk and severity of catastrophic flooding, but there has been strong scientific debate over the role of forests in flood mitigation.

Forest loss is currently estimated at 13 million hectares each year, with 6 million hectares of that being primary forest previously untouched by human activities. These primary forests are considered the most biologically diverse ecosystems on the planet, but this realisation has not halted their immense rate of loss.

Last year my colleagues and I published a paper entitled Global evidence that deforestation amplifies flood risk and severity in the developing world in Global Change Biology (highlighted in Nature and Faculty of 1000) that has finally provided tangible evidence that there is a strong link between deforestation and flood risk. Read the rest of this entry »

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