Mapping the economic loss of ecosystem services caused by the invasive plant species Antigonon leptopus on the Dutch Caribbean Island of St. Eustatius

Invasive species are a worldwide threat to biodiversity, especially on Caribbean islands.
Through their impact on the structure and functioning of ecosystems, they also affect
ecosystem services. Therefore, invasive species can have profound socio-economic
effects. On the Dutch Caribbean Island of St. Eustatius, the invasive perennial vine Coralita
is present on roughly 33% of the Island. While ecological damage is evident, effective
management strategies are still lacking. This study links the ecological, cultural and
societal effects of the invasion to the economy of the Island by estimating the ecosystem
service losses due to Coralita in monetary value. We have spatially assessed the
economic value of five main ecosystem services (tourism, non-use value, carbon
sequestration, archaeology and local cultural and recreational value) to the different
habitats on the Island and estimated the loss of these values under three scenarios of
Coralita cover: 0%, 3% and 36% dominant cover. The baseline scenario of 0%
demonstrated a total ecosystem service value of $2.7 million per year, concentrated on the Quill volcano. The 3% and 36% scenario showed a yearly loss of $39,804 and $576,704, respectively, with the largest losses located on the northern and eastern slopes of the Quill.
These areas should be prioritised for management and the known potential gain per area
enables choice of strategy, based on cost-benefit considerations. To reduce further
economic loss by Coralita, we urgently advise an immediate management strategy and
ongoing research into eradication and restoration methods.

BES Islands, Coralita, economic value, invasive species, spatial assessment, scenario

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