TRaCK: Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge

Science and knowledge that governments, communities, industries for sustainable use of Australia's tropical rivers and estuaries

Putting a dollar value on rivers & forests to ensure future

Putting a dollar value on rivers & forests to ensure future


We need to put a monetary value on our natural assets in order to ensure we make good decisions about future policies and developments, a CSIRO environmental economist will tell The Brisbane Institute tomorrow night (Tues 24 March).

Dr Anna Straton from CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems says unless we try to identify the value of goods and services provided by ecosystems such as rivers, reefs and forests, we run the risk of undervaluing them and making poor decisions.

Dr Straton will speak at a Brisbane Institute seminar on “Assessing the value of our natural wealth” at Customs House on Tuesday 24 March at 6.15pm.

“Ecosystems are made up of plants, animals, soil, water and air, and are a form of asset that produces goods and services,” she said.
“These might include goods such as timber, fish or crops, and services like the regulation of climate, water and soil, pollination to ensure continuation of plant species, or the provision of places for recreation and spiritual benefit.”

Dr Straton said one estimate of 17 ecosystems across the world had valued them at between US$16 trillion and $54 trillion annually, when taking into account aspects such as how they regulated the atmosphere, climate, erosion or water quality.
She said using this dollar-value approach enabled decision makers to better weigh up the costs and benefits of, for example, clearing a few acres of forest to put in a new residential development.

“A lot of decisions these days about whether we should go ahead with a particular development or policy are based on the bottom line,” she said.
“Now we have the triple bottom line where we look at the economic costs and benefits, as well as the social and environmental costs and benefits — we know these things are equally important but we need to be able to compare them.

Dr Straton — who was The University of Queensland’s 2007 Young Alumnus of the Year — is in the final stages of a research project that is assessing the value of Australia’s tropical rivers.

Her research involves asking people to put a value on different aspects of a river, such as its contribution to agriculture, tourism, recreation, cultural activities and the environment.

“We ask people about how their welfare would be affected if there was a change to that ecosystem. Another way to do it is to estimate how much it would cost to replace the ecosystems good or service using human-made technology, or how much it would cost to rehabilitate an area.

“The main role of valuation exercises like this is to really bring attention to the extent of the contribution these ecosystem goods and services make to people,” she said.