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Economic and Environmental Benefits of Biodiversity

Maintaining biodiversity is essential for organic waste disposal, soil formation, biological nitrogen fixation, crop and livestock genetics, biological pest control, plant pollination, and pharmaceutical development. The authors estimate that in the United States, biodiversity provides a total of $319 billion dollars in annual benefits and $2,928 billion in annual benefits worldwide. The paper describes many of the individual factors that went into calculating this number.
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  • Maintaining biodiversity is essential for organic waste disposal, soil formation, biological nitrogen fixation, crop and livestock genetics, biological pest control, plant pollination, and pharmaceuticals. Plants and microbes help to degrade chemical pollutants and organic wastes and cycle nutrients through the ecosystem. For example:
  • Pollinators, including bees and butterflies, provide significant environmental and economic benefits to agricultural and natural ecosystems, including adding diversity and productivity to food crops. As many as one-third of the world’s food production relies directly or indirectly on insect pollination. About 130 of the crops gown in the United States are insect pollinated. Habitat fragmentation and loss adversely affects pollinator food sources, nesting sites, and mating sites, causing precipitous declines in the populations of wild pollinators.
  • There are 6 million tons of food products harvested annually from terrestrial wild biota in the United States including large and small animals, maple syrup, nuts, blueberries and algae. The 6 billion tons of food are valued at $57 million and add $3 billion to the country’s economy (1995 calculations).
  • Approximately 75% (by weight) of the 100,000 chemicals released into the environment can be degraded by biological organisms and are potential targets of both bioremediation and biotreatment. The savings gained by using bioremediation instead of the other available techniques; physical, chemical and thermal; to remediate chemical pollution worldwide give an annual benefit of $135 billion (1997 calculation). Maintaining biodiversity in soils and water is imperative to the continued and improved effectiveness of bioremediation and biotreatment.
  • Biodiversity is essential for the sustainable functioning of the agricultural, forest, and natural ecosystems on which humans depend, but human activities, especially the development of natural lands, are causing a species extinction rate of 1,000 to 10,000 times the natural rate. The authors estimate that in the United States, biodiversity provides a total of $319 billion dollars in annual benefits and $2,928 billion in annual benefits worldwide (1997 calculation)

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Last modified by Gayle Diehl

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