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WWF Living Water publication
The Economic Values of the World’s Wetlands
Prepared with support from the Swiss Agency for the Environment, Forests and Landscape (SAEFL)
Friday 19 March 2004, by Web Team

This paper presents an overview of initial economic values of the world’s wetlands. The basis for this study is the database of global wetland economic values as developed by the Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM) in Amsterdam.

This database contains 89 economic valuation studies across continents. Over the past years, many economic valuation studies of wetlands around the world have been carried out by different organizations. These studies include valuations of specific wetland sites (for examples, see the case studies presented in this report), but also studies that provide overviews of economic values of wetlands based on illustrative case studies (see for example "The Socioeconomics of Wetlands" by Stuip et al., 2002 [1] and "Money Growson Water" by IUCN Water & Nature Initiative,2003 [2]). However, a comprehensive overview of wetland economic values across continents globally is lacking. One attempt at measuring the global economic value of wetlands was made by Costanza et al. [3] in 1997, which estimated the total economic value of the world’s biomes at $33 trillion and the economic value of the world’s wetlands at $4.8 trillion. However, although interesting and relevant for the message it conveyed and subsequent discussion it stimulated, these figures are very crude approximations1 that introduced a lot of errors and the study was heavily criticized for its calculations. No distinctions were made between economic values of wetlands in different geographical regions, values of different wetland types or values of different wetland goods and services. The underlying study is intended to further refine these distinctions and to extrapolate them to the world’s wetlands.

This paper combines relevant economic valuation studies carried out around the globe to provide ranges of estimates for wetland economic values by geographical region and by wetland good or service. This study also conducts a ’value transfer’ (the prediction or estimation of the value of a wetland given the knowledge of its physical and socio-economic characteristics) to initially estimate the global economic value of wetlands. These estimates are intended to clarify for policy makers that wetlands are economically valuable biomes that provide goods and services upon which many communities and economies depend. Recognizing the economic importance of wetlands in addition to their biodiversity, scientific value, climate regulation, potential tourism, socio-cultural and other important wetland values (that were not included in the calculations in this study) is yet another good reason to reverse global wetland loss and can help meet the U.N Millennium goals to halve the number of people without adequate water and sanitation services by 2015, and significantly reduce the rate of loss of biodiversity by 2010.

Gland/Amsterdam, January 2004




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