The Total Economic Value of Nature on St Eustatius
This study is part of the research project “What is St Eustatius Nature Worth?”, a project that is part of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) Caribbean Netherlands. Healthy ecosystems such as the coral reef patches and the forests on the hillsides of Boven and the Quill are critical to the society of St Eustatius. The St Eustatius Strategic Development Plan (SDP) acknowledges the importance of the natural environment as an important attraction and asset for the development of the tourism sector. In the last decades, various local and global developments have turned into serious threats to these fragile ecosystems, thereby jeopardizing the foundations of the island’s economy. It is crucial to understand how nature contributes to the economy and wellbeing to make well-founded decisions that affect the natural environment on this special tropical island.
This research aims to determine the economic value of the main ecosystem services that are provided by the natural resources of St Eustatius and their overall importance to society. The challenge of this project is to deliver insight that supports decision- makers in the long-term management of the island’s economy and natural environment. From the onset of the study, stakeholders participated by facilitating data and simultaneously giving support to the concept of valuing ecosystem services. They address the most relevant ecosystems and ecosystem services for St Eustatius. The study 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 nature on St Eustatius.
In total, 8 different ecosystem services have been valued in monetary terms. The total economic value (TEV) is the sum of these ecosystem services provided by the marine and terrestrial ecosystems of St Eustatius. It is calculated to be 25.2 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 St Eustatius.
Key findings for St Eustatius
- The current total economic value (TEV) of the natural environment on St Eustatius is 25.2 million USD annually and consists of de following 8 values: non-use, tourism, fisheries, research, carbon sequestration, medicinal plants, local value, and agriculture and livestock.
- The aggregated annual amount for the value for conserving the natural environment by residents of the Netherlands mainland is estimated at 17 million Euros (22 million USD).
- Expansion of the tourism sector to up to 40,000 tourists a year will increase the tourism value up to 6 million USD in the short run, but will lower the TEV from 25.2 million to 17.8 million USD per year. The tourists will impact the natural environment rather severely. Local residents will be left with the degraded nature, while tourists will spend their holiday somewhere else. Slowly expanding the tourism sector is suggested, while tracking the impacts on the environment by monitoring closely.
- With the current pressure on ecosystem services of St Eustatius and without any additional management, the TEV of the natural environment will decrease from 25.2 million USD today to around 20.2 million USD annually within 30 years.
- Roaming animals are seen as a nuisance, but not every Statian knows that they also have a negative impact on the terrestrial and marine environments. Management of these animals will improve the natural environment of St Eustatius in a cost efficient way and opens up the possibility to agricultural practices.
- When managing free roaming animals is combined with moderate expansion of tourism, nature will be more resilient and can withstand more tourists without degradation of the natural environment.
- With a well-considered growth of the tourism industry and the development of agriculture, the SDP can be realized. Statians will enjoy a higher level of prosperity by maximizing the benefits from ecosystem services while they experience a livable, natural environment.