WASHINGTON, DC, August 4, 2004 (ENS): The pollination "services"
of the surrounding tropical forest contributed seven
percent of the annual income of one Costa Rican coffee
farm, according to a new study appearing Monday in the
"Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."
The study is the first to quantify in such detail the
economic value of pollination services from tropical
It shows that there are "compelling economic reasons
for conserving native ecosystems," said Taylor
Ricketts, principle author of the study and director
of WWF's Conservation Science Program.
"Because the benefits we derive from ecosystems
are difficult to quantify, they are often assumed to
be worthless," Ricketts said. "Yet, we found
that without this forest, the coffee plantation would
lose about $60,000 in income from the diminished pollination
The research team investigated pollination on coffee
plants at three distances from the forest - near (330
feet), intermediate (one half mile), and far (just under
The researchers found the areas of the coffee farm
closest to the forest experienced more pollination by
The increased pollination boosted coffee yields and
decreased the number of deformed beans, compared to
the plants farthest from the forest.
"Our numbers are very conservative because we
just looked at one ecosystem service - pollination -
on one farm," said Paul Ehrlich, a co-author and
professor of population studies at Stanford University.
"If we quantified other ecosystem services like
water purification, and the value of pollination to
other neighboring farms, the value of this forest would
be even greater."
The study suggests the value of tropical forest is
greater than other land uses for which forests are often
Cattle pasture, for example, would yield approximately
$24,000 a year, less than half of what pollination services
provides to the coffee plantation.
"The fact that pollination services alone are
so valuable to an individual farm demonstrates how conservation
is compatible with economic development," Ricketts
said. "Protecting natural ecosystems can benefit
both biodiversity and local people."