Student essays on economic values of nature of Bonaire

To inform decision makers about the most effective strategies to protect the ecosystems of Bonaire, a full-scale valuation of all ecosystem services on the island of Bonaire has been undertaken by WIKCS and the VU University Amsterdam. The study addresses a wide range of ecosystems, ecosystem services and applies a multitude of economic valuation and evaluation tools. For budgetary reasons, a distinction has been made in terms of the ecosystem services covered by the studies between ecosystem services that are valued through primary research and ecosystems services that are addressed through secondary data analysis. This report summarises the ecosystem services that are valued on the basis of desk research or through key informant interviews. The quality of each sub-study varies, depending on the data availability to the subsequent researchers. This also implies that not each sub-study was able to actually generate a monetary value to be included in the Total Economic Value (TEV) estimate. Despite this caveat, the individual studies increase the understanding of the complex links between nature and society on Bonaire and are therefore worth presenting.

Art value

Artists are inspired by their surroundings. Such is also the case on Bonaire, where the natural scenery of the island stimulates artists to use components of nature in their work. Clearly, nature plays a crucial role in the production process of art on Bonaire. The demand of art consists of the thousands and thousands of tourists visiting the island, who are keen to bring home a piece of art to memorise the beauty of the island upon their return. Moreover, the beautiful photographs and books produced on Bonaire are distributed to clients across the world. Given the explicit demand and supply of art on Bonaire and its strong dependence on nature, the art sector on Bonaire plays an important role in the overall economy and provides an additional reason to manage nature well on the island. The value of the ecosystem service of artistic inspiration is valued at $460,000 annually.

Research value

Nature in Bonaire provides important services for research and education. The marine and terrestrial environment of Bonaire is subject for a large group of academics who conduct and publish innovative research based on these unique and easily accessible ecosystems. Without the presence of healthy ecosystems, Bonaire would not attract large numbers of researchers nor would Bonaire’s nature be a source of inspiration for many educational activities on the island and beyond. This sub-study made an inventory of all ecosystem related research expenditures funded by governmental and non-governmental organisations for Bonaire. In total a total research value was estimated between 1,240,000 USD and 1,485,000 USD in 2011.

Medical and pharmaceutical value

Medicinal plants play important roles in many traditional societies. The healing properties of herbal medicines have been recognized in many ancient cultures thousands of years ago. Besides these local benefits, biodiversity is important for the development of pharmaceutical treatments and drugs. The purpose of this sub-study is to economically value the benefits of species and ecosystem functions that are relevant for medicinal and pharmaceutical purposes. The study found that a large part of the population in Bonaire regularly collects and uses local herbs and other medicinal plants for medical treatment. Two-third of the inhabitants who were surveyed made use of local plants as an alternative to modern medicine or prescription drugs. Ultimately, a total annual medicinal and pharmaceutical value results of $688,788 of which more than half is comprised of the local value of medicinal plants.

Carbon sequestration

The ecosystem service of climate regulation deals mainly with greenhouse gas emissions and how ecosystems can mitigate such effects. Bonaire has six ecosystems that provide carbon-sequestering properties: salinas, dry forest, coral reefs, sea grass, mangroves and open ocean. The objectives of this sub-study is to (1) identify the ecosystems that are relevant to climate regulation in Bonaire with their functions and threats; (2) describe the different economic valuation methods suitable for climate regulation calculations; and (3) value the overall climate regulation potential of Bonaire. This desk study has made a rough attempt to estimate the carbon sequestration value of the main ecosystems of Bonaire. Based on carbon market prices at the time of research, this value was estimated at $290,000 per year.

Pollination by bats

The island of Bonaire is a fauna and flora rich and beautiful attraction in the Caribbean. By supporting fruit growth and aesthetic values, bats plays an important role in preserving high levels of biodiversity on Bonaire. This study made an attempt to give more insight in the importance pollination by bats for the island. Due to limited availability of data and time, the study will not generate an actual economic value of pollination. Yet, by describing the possible links between pollination and the economy of Bonaire, this study adds value and provides a solid foundation for an actual economic valuation study in the future. Despite of the lack of a concrete economic value, the evidence provide support the notion of conservation of the bats of Bonaire their natural habitat (i.e. caves). Both economic and cultural reasons have been identified to support this conclusion.

Coastal water quality

This paper attempts to examine the values of ecosystems in provisioning good water quality in Bonaire, Dutch Antilles. Bateman’s (2011) steps in ecosystem assessment and economic analysis are used as a framework to run this examination. Three ecosystems are identified that contributes to deliver services in question: mangroves, saliñas/salt marshes, and sea grasses. Based on their functions related to providing good water quality (filtering, water purification, and nutrient cycling) this report proposes three valuation methods: 1) replacement cost method for mangroves and saliñas; 2) Production function method for sea grasses. Benefit transfer also mentioned in the discourse to tackle the challenge of finding relevant data.

Amenity value

The fact that many people prefer natural over built environments is often manifested in house prices. Therefore various environmental conditions may have a significant impact on house prices. In Bonaire these include the view or proximity to water bodies, coral reefs and other healthy ecosystems. This study aims to estimate this so-called amenity value of nature on Bonaire. Through a hedonic pricing analysis, the hypothesis was tested whether property values are not only determined by conventional house and neighbourhood characteristics, but also affected by the presence and quality of Bonaire’s ecosystems. From this statistical analysis no strong significant impact of environmental variables onto the house prices has been detected and thus the hypothesis is rejected. This lack of evidence limits the possibility to calculate the amenity value. The cause of the poorly performing analysis is the limited data available on house sales on Bonaire.

Cultural value

The island of Bonaire has a precious though threatened nature and its culture is indistinguishable from nature. Yet, times are changing and so is the relationship between nature and society in Bonaire. Since the development of industrial times, less Bonairean practise agriculture, and less people are working in the nature. The objective of this study is to estimate the value of the cultural ecosystem services of the island of Bonaire. The scope of this sub-study is limited to four cultural values of ecosystems on Bonaire: (1) Recreational activities; (2) Subsistence and recreational fishing; (3) Kunukus; and (4) Cultural landscape. 

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