It's time to create a comprehensive accounting system for natural capital to recognize the full value of ecosystem services provided by boreal forests, an ecological economist will urge delegates to Canada's 10th National Forest Congress Sept. 25-27.
The forests' huge value as sinks and reservoirs of atmospheric carbon, for example, is unaccounted for today but needs to be recognized in future, according to Mark Anielski of Edmonton, who will make a presentation to Canadian and international forest officials, and experts from native peoples communities, the energy, farming and tourism sectors and other stakeholders assembling for the Congress at Lac Leamy, Gatineau-Ottawa.
Anielski and research colleagues estimate that environmental services from the boreal from climate regulation via carbon capture and storage, water filtration and waste treatment, to biodiversity maintenance, pest control by birds, etc. are worth about $160 per hectare, or $93 billion per year in Canada.
Globally, the estimates produce a rough value of ecosystem services rendered by boreal forests (almost 10 million northern square km spanning Canada, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Alaska) of US $250 billion per year, a huge figure unrecognized in national income accounts or measures such as Gross Domestic Product.
"If these ecosystem services were counted in Canada, they would amount to roughly 9% of GDP. Ignoring these values would be like leaving out the combined annual contribution to GDP made by Canada's health and social services sector and half of the public services sector."
"Resource extraction and development in the boreal are vital to human well-being, of course. The point of our research is that services provided by the boreal ecosystem make a quantifiable contribution to well-being as well values that are important to reflect in national and regional economic balance sheets and measures like Gross Domestic Product."