Study Finds Bigger Net Economic Gain If Nature Is Left Wild Instead of Farmed

Cambridge University researchers find “ecosystem services” provide more value than forestry or farming the land.

In the largest study of its kind to date, researchers concluded that the returns of “ecosystem services” outweigh the dollar value of resource-extraction from wild lands.

Cambridge University and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds looked at 24 sites in six continents. Their findings are published in the current issue of the journal Nature Sustainability.

The team compared keeping the land “nature-focused” with alternative “non-nature” development over the course of fifty years. Calculating carbon’s value conservatively, the researchers still concluded that 70 percent of the nature-focused sites held more economic value when left undeveloped.

Tree Logging

By this logic, the researchers point out that even when economic gain is the primary motivator, habitat conservation is still the more viable option.

This research comes a month after another significant Cambridge finding. That review cited “extreme risk” to the planet as a result of economics failing to place value on the natural world. Its rapid demise is not being calculated as it should, coming at a “devastating cost.”

Other studies have also found forestland to bring more value when left in tact. A recent plea to global leaders from 500 climate scientists identified another issue: the impact forest-burning for biomass has on the planet.

“Government subsidies for burning wood create a double climate problem because this false solution is replacing real carbon reductions,” the group wrote. Trees, the group says, are “more valuable alive than dead both for climate and for biodiversity.”

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