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Counting Canada’s Natural Capital: assessing the real value of canada’s boreal ecosystems

Key Message

The total non-market value of boreal ecosystem services is 13.8 times greater than the net market value of boreal natural capital extraction - significantly greater than the market values derived from current industrial development—forestry, oil and gas, mining, and hydroelectric energy—combined. (p 2)

Source

Anielski, Mark and Wilson, Sara. (2009). Counting Canada’s Natural Capital: assessing the real value of Canada’s boreal ecosystems. 2009 Update. Ottawa: Canadian Boreal Institute.

Purpose

The primary purpose of the study is to begin to identify, inventory, and measure the full economic value of the many ecological goods and services provided by Canada’s boreal region, which covers 58.5 percent of Canada’s land mass. For this purpose,  the Boreal Ecosystem Wealth Accounting System (BEWAS) was developed as a tool for measuring and reporting on the physical conditions and the full economic value of the boreal region’s natural capital and ecosystem services.

It provides a natural capital “balance sheet” for assessing the sus- tainability, integrity, and full economic value of the boreal region. The balance sheet is broken down into three main accounting categories:
1. Natural capital accounts—including the stocks, flows, and monetary values (market and non-market values) of forests, mineral and energy resources, fish and wildlife, wetlands and peatlands, and water resources (lakes, rivers)
2. Land accounts—including an account of land area by land type such as forest land, agricultural land, wetlands, and peatlands
3. Ecosystem service accounts—including atmospheric stabilization; climate stabilization; disturbance avoidance; water stabilization; water supply; erosion control and sediment retention; soil formation; nutrient cycling; waste treatment; pollina- tion; biological control; habitat; raw materials; genetic resources; and recreation and cultural use. As noted, most of these ecosystem services go unaccounted for in conventional economic decision making. (p 2)

Evidence

The estimated total non-market value of boreal ecosystem services in the year 2002 was $703 billion (or $1,204 per hectare of the boreal ecosystem land base). If accounted for, boreal ecosystem services would equate to 61 percent of the value of Canada’s GDP in 2002.

The ecosystem services with the highest economic value per year are

(1) carbon storage by forests and wetlands—$582 billion
(2) flood control and water filtering by peatlands—$77.0 billion;
(3) flood control and water filtering and biodiversity provided by non- peatland wetlands—$33.7 billion;
(4) pest control services by birds in the boreal forests—$5.4 billion; and (
5) nature-related activities—$4.5 billion.

When we compare the market and non-market values for the year 2002, the total non-market value of boreal ecosystem services is 13.8 times greater than the net market value of boreal natural capital extraction. This result is significant. It suggests that the ecological and socio-economic benefits of boreal ecosystem services, in their current state, may be significantly greater than the market values derived from current industrial development—forestry, oil and gas, mining, and hydroelectric energy—combined. (p 2)

 

Benefit Statements / Outcomes

Leadership Provided By:

  • Leisure Information Network (LIN)
  • Alberta Recreation and Parks Association

On Behalf Of:

  • Canadian Parks and Recreation Association (CPRAA)

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