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2014-06-05. Putting a Price Tag on Nature’s Defenses.

posted Jun 6, 2014, 10:24 AM by Alan Gould

For GSS Ecosystem Change chapter 7. Excerpt: ...Coastal marshes absorb the wind energy and waves of storms, weakening their impact farther inland. ...the services ecosystems provide us — whether shielding us from storms, preventing soil erosion or soaking up the greenhouse gases that lead to global warming — were [$33 trillion] twice as valuable as the gross national product of every country on Earth in 1997. ...Dr. Costanza and his colleagues have now updated the 1997 estimate in a new study, published in the May issue of the journal Global Environmental Change, and concluded that the original estimate was far too low. The true value of the services of the world’s ecosystems is at least three times as high.... Coral reefs...protect against soil erosion by weakening waves before they reach land. ...Dr. Costanza and his colleagues now consider the services provided by coral reefs to be 42 times more valuable than they did in 1997...a total of $11 trillion worldwide. Most of the 17 services that Dr. Costanza and his colleagues analyzed...— including tropical forests, mangroves and grasslands — also turned out to be more valuable. ...they came up with a global figure of $142.7 trillion a year (in 2014 dollars). ...the world’s reefs shrank from 240,000 square miles in 1997 to 108,000 in 2011. ...deforestation and other damage we’ve inflicted on the natural world has wiped out $23 trillion a year in ecosystem services. To put that loss into perspective, consider that the gross domestic product of the United States is $16.2 trillion....  By Carl Zimmer, The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/05/science/earth/putting-a-price-tag-on-natures-defenses.html.