Payments for eco services could save the Amazon

12 Feb 2009


Paying for the ecological services provided by the Amazon rainforest could be the key to saving it, reports a new analysis from WWF.

The study, Keeping the Amazon forests standing: a matter of values, tallied the economic value of various ecosystem services afforded by Earth's largest rainforest. It found that standing forest is worth, at minimum, $426 per hectare per year for production of non-timber forest products (honey, fiber, mushrooms, medicinal plants, etc), erosion prevention, fire prevention, pollination, carbon storage, existence value, and recreational and ecotourism use. Accounting for maintenance of biodiversity, the spiritual and cultural aspects of the forest, disease protection, provision of water, and production of timber through reduced impact logging techniques (not necessarily sustainable production) boosts the value even higher.

While these values compare favorably to other forms of land use in the region - soy farming ($300-600 per hectare) and cattle ranching ($51-148 per ha) - there are presently no mechanisms to compensate Amazon countries, save for the emerging REDD mechanism for forest carbon. REDD or "Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation" would enable industrialized countries to pay for forest conservation in tropical countries as a means to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. Deforestation presently accounts for roughly 20 percent of anthropogenic emissions.

The report says that forest carbon could be worth $70-100 per hectare per year based on damage avoided due to CO2 avoided and the value of carbon stored in intact forest.