The Total Economic Value of Nature on Saba

This study is part of the project “What is Saba’s Nature Worth?” The project is part of the encompassing project The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity Caribbean Netherlands. The key message of TEEB is that the economic value of nature plays an important role in determining the natural capital on the island.

Saban people are proud of their ‘Unspoiled Queen of the Caribbean’ with its lush mountain rainforest and stunning underwater world. This study aims to determine the economic value of the ecosystem services that are provided by the natural resources of Saba and their overall importance to society. It demonstrates how nature contributes to Saba’s economy and wellbeing. This information can be used to make well-founded decisions when managing the economy and nature of this ‘Unspoiled Queen’.

From the onset of the study, stakeholders participated by facilitating data and simultaneously creating support for the concept of valuing ecosystem services on the island. The research addresses the most relevant ecosystems and ecosystem services for Saba and applies a range of economic valuation and evaluation tools. By surveying over a 1,000 people including tourists, local residents, and citizens of the mainland of the Netherlands, this study estimated the willingness of individuals to pay for the protection of the natural environment of Saba. The data of the economic evaluation and the surveys was used as input for analysis of the different scenarios.

In the scenario analysis 8 different ecosystem services have been valued in monetary terms. The total economic value (TEV) of the ecosystem services provided by the marine and terrestrial ecosystems of Saba is calculated to be 28.4 million USD per year. This TEV and its underlying components can be used to build a strategy for effective conservation measures and sustainable development on Saba. This study made use of a dynamic model to recreate the current situation on the island and to give insight in possible future scenarios or management options. Three scenarios were developed in close cooperation with local experts and stakeholders: 1) A baseline scenario 2) Management of roaming goats, and 3) Tourism expansion.

If no new management actions are set in motion and the environment is left to fend for itself it will slowly deteriorate. This will result in a decrease of the TEV to a final value of 21.8 million USD. The scenario in which an increase in the number of tourists analyzed, results in a TEV of 23.8 million USD. However such an uncontrolled increase in number of tourist can have deleterious effects on the natural environment of Saba. Tourists visit the island for its tranquility and unspoiled natural landscape and marine environment. Without these assets, Saba will cease to be the attractive destination that it currently is and these tourists will not return to the island. Sustainable development combined with increased investments in natural capital will pay off in the long run. It is stated that it will be more costly to restore an ecosystem than to maintain a healthy one. The scenario in which free roaming goats are controlled, will improve the natural environment and this management option results in a TEV of 29 million USD, moreover, this scenario will keep Saba the ‘Unspoiled Queen’. In combination with a limited growth of the tourism sector Saba can economically benefit from what its nature has to offer. 

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