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 forests.
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 a mile).
The researchers found the areas of the coffee farm closest to the
forest experienced more pollination by wild bees.
The increased pollination boosted coffee yields and decreased the
number of deformed beans, compared to the plants farthest from the
"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 destroyed.
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."