Healthy ecosystems such as coral reefs and mangroves are critical to Bonairean society. In the last decades, various local and global developments have resulted in serious threats to these fragile ecosystems of Bonaire, thereby jeopardizing the foundations of the island’s economy. Therefore, it is crucial to understand how nature contributes to Bonaire’s economy and its wellbeing in order to make well-founded decisions when managing the economy and nature of 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 Bonaire and their overall importance to society. The challenge of this project is to deliver sound scientific insights that will guide decision-making regarding the protection of Bonaire’s ecosystems and the management of the island’s economy.
By assigning economic values to the main ecosystem services of Bonaire, this research draws attention to the economic benefits of biodiversity and highlights the growing costs of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation. The study addresses the most relevant ecosystems and ecosystem services for Bonaire and applies a range of economic valuation and evaluation tools. By surveying over 1,500 persons, including tourists, fishermen, local residents, and citizens of the Netherlands, this study estimated the willingness of individuals to pay for the protection of Bonairean nature, as well as mechanisms (e.g. user fees) through which such payments would be transferred. Furthermore, a scenario analysis is conducted to inform decision makers about the most effective strategies to protect the ecosystems of Bonaire. This study intensively involved stakeholders from the start to finish, which facilitated data collection while simultaneously building capacity in applying the concept of ecosystem services among the target audience.
In total, more than 10 different ecosystem services have been valued in monetary terms. The totaleconomic value (TEV) of the ecosystem services provided by the marine and terrestrial ecosystems of Bonaire is $105 million per year. This TEV and its underlying components can be used to build a strategy for effective conservation measures on Bonaire. After extensively analyzing different scenarios for future ecosystem services values one result becomes very clear: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In other words, it is more efficient to prevent extensive environmental damage than trying to revitalize the environment while there are still threats at hand. With the current threats unmanaged, the TEV of Bonairean nature will decrease from $105 million today to around $60 million in ten years time and to less than $40 million in 30 years. The project is well documented and provides several extensive online reports, five easily accessible policy briefs and a beautiful film documentary that translates the scientific results into real life situations on Bonaire.