Growth models used to inform decisions about development have largely excluded considerations of environmental value, resulting in significant environmental degradation. In order to support more sustainable development, ecosystem services valuation (ESV) methods have been developed to capture the value of the environment to local communities in economic terms and more easily compare apples with apples in cost-benefit analyses.
USAID Mekong Adaptation and Resilience to Climate Change (USAID Mekong ARCC) recently launched a web-based Ecosystem Value Estimator, aiming to provide initial ESV estimates common to the GMS including forests, wetlands, mangroves and coastal areas. The value ranges calculated by the ESV Estimator are based on over 500 existing valuation assessments of ecosystem services in the GMS.
For example, the 16-hectare Non Sao Ae forest in Thailand’s Sakon Nakhon province, where USAID Mekong ARCC supports community resilience initiatives, provides around US$224,000 (THB 7.84 million) annually in provisioning services (food, fuelwood and other products) to the local community and surrounding areas. These initial estimates inform decision-makers a more accurate picture of the economic costs and benefits of environmental degradation and conservation.
Figure: Web-Based Ecosystem Value Estimator