What is St Eustatius’ Nature Worth? (Policy Brief)
Healthy ecosystems such as the corals reefs 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 also acknowledges the importance of natural attractions for the expansion of the tourism sector. In the last decades, various local and global developments have resulted in 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 beautiful 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.
By assigning economic values to the main ecosystem services of St Eustatius,
this research draws attention to the economic bene ts of biodiversity and highlights the growing costs of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation. From the onset of the study, stakeholders participated by facilitating data and simultaneously creating support for the concept of ecosystem services. The study addresses the most relevant ecosystems and ecosystem services for St Eustatius 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 Netherlands, this study estimated the willingness of individuals to pay for the protection of nature of St Eustatius. Furthermore, scenario analysis was conducted to inform decision-makers about the most effective strategies to protect the ecosystems of the island in order to improve the economy and wellbeing of its residents.
The total economic value (TEV) of the ecosystem services provided by the marine and terrestrial ecosystems of St Eustatius is calculated to be $25 million per year. After extensively analyzing different development scenarios for the value of future ecosystem services, it becomes very clear: Despite the ample opportunities to develop the tourism industry, increasing the tourism sector beyond its capacity
are likely to cause pressures which the local ecosystems cannot endure. This potential degradation of the natural environment will prevent future tourists from coming to St Eustatius. In other words, tourism can destroy the very environmental attractions that visitors come to experience on St Eustatius. Furthermore, increased support for nature conservation proofs to be a pro table investment. With the current pressure on ecosystem services on St Eustatius, the TEV of its natural environment, will decrease from $25 million today to around $18 million in 30 years. The project is well documented and provides several extensive online reports and three easily accessible policy briefs to communicate the results of the study.