Economic values of the world’s forest ecosystem services

Economic studies published between 1990 and 2018 from primary forests around the world were reviewed to create a database of forest values. This database represents a ‘meta-analysis’ of the economic values of global forest ecosystem services in a readily comparable measure.

This study presents a 'meta-analysis' of the economic values of global forest ecosystem services. The meta-analysis is conducted based on data from primary studies published between 1990 and 2018. The value-estimates from those studies are standardized into international currency units i.e. US dollar/ha/year using the purchasing power parity of countries at 2017 price levels.

This standardization results in a database of 261 eligible primary studies and 758 value-estimates or observations. The study reveals large variations in the reported economic values of forests and the ecosystem services that they provide. Results from the meta-regression indicate a range of drivers that influence these economic values, including GDP per-capita, proportion of forest cover, continental location, type of forest, ecological zone, forest area, ecosystem services being valued and the valuation method employed.

The number of studies on valuation of forest ecosystem services is increasing over time, but limited in covering important regions. The economic values of forest ecosystem services are quite diverse for different forest features and ecological zones. The meta-regression results also indicate the importance of valuing multiple ecosystem services together, rather than valuing specific services separately. The danger with the latter approach is that valuation studies can inadvertently suggest industrial plantation forests, with harvesting for timber or bio-mass energy, have the greatest economic value.

However, such studies do not properly consider trade-offs inherent in the management of these types of forests; namely the loss of multiple ecosystem services that are provided by more natural forests. These findings contribute to the literature evaluating the economic values of global forest ecosystem services by conveying relevant information regarding the divergence of the economic values associated with different forest features, thus helping to inform forest management.

Article authors

Fitalew Taye

Fitalew Taye

Fitalew is an environmental and resource economist whose research focuses on non-market valuation of environmental goods and services.
Chris Fleming

Chris Fleming

Chris is a Professor of Economics and Dean (Research) at the Griffith Business School. He teaches, researches, consults and provides public policy advice on the economic determinants of well-being and the sustainable management of the world around us.
Andrew Buckwell

Andrew Buckwell

Andrew is a Research Fellow at Griffith Business School with experience as an applied environmental economist focussed on micro-economic valuation and community preferences for natural resource use.
Dr Brendan Mackey

Brendan Mackey

Project Director and Director of the Griffith Climate Action Beacon at Griffith University, contributing to community planning and engagement in forest projects.

Taye, F. A., Folkersen, M. V., Fleming, C. M., Buckwell, A., Mackey, B., Diwakar, K. C., Le, D., Hasan, S., & Ange, C. S. (2021). The economic values of global forest ecosystem services: A meta-analysis. Ecological Economics, 189, 107145.

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