Step 3.2C: Collect existing evidence of the economic value of nature and its contribution to sustainable development

It is essential to explain to key decision makers how investing in biodiversity is essential to achieve sustainable development and economic growth. Measuring the economic value of nature is an important approach that can strengthen this debate. As described in Chapter 1, most of the benefits received from nature’s diversity and function are in the form of ecosystem services. They are not usually priced in the market economy, and consequently inadequately managed or conserved.

Many countries have conducted a range of economic analyses to determine the economic value of nature, including costbenefit analyses and environmental impact studies. The PIR must take stock of economic valuation studies and understand and present their findings (Box 3.4). Economic valuation can help to assess trade-offs among investments perceived to be socially or environmentally positive. Studies presenting the benefits of biodiversity beyond just monetary value are also useful. These benefits include socio-economic indicators such as job creation, improvements in health and longevity, and gender equity. This evidence base will be useful throughout the BIOFIN Process, particularly in drafting the BFP. We do not recommend primary research or valuation studies at this stage.

Box 3.4: List and Summarize Environmental-Economic Evidence


This information provides background to begin building business cases and identify viable existing or potentially new finance solutions in Chapter 6:

  • Report information – title, authors, dates, etc.
  • What sector, impacts and/or dependencies, biodiversity or ecosystem services were included?
  • What was the baseline state of the environment, and direction and scale of change?
  • What valuation methodology or approach was used?
  • Whose values were measured, where and over what time period?
  • What were the main findings? Was the result of the study used to promote policy reform and was the policy reform successful?
  • Do the results suggest opportunities for improved biodiversity finance solutions?

Note the rapidly developing research and evidence relating to links among biodiversity, economic sectors, social values and governance. For example, the conceptual framework for the intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services provides guidance on the elements constituting social-ecological systems at different scales.

Box 3.5: How South-Africa Developed a New Paradigm to Link Investments in Nature with Sustainable Development – The Concept of Ecological Infrastructure


In South Africa, the term ‘ecological infrastructure’ refers to ecosystems that deliver services to society, functioning as a nature-based equivalent of, or complement to, built infrastructure. A recent publication17 demonstrates how investing in ecological infrastructure supports the implementation of the South African National Development Plan and the SDGs. Using concrete examples, it demonstrated a clear contribution to poverty alleviation (SDG 1), food security (SDG 2), health and well-being (SDG 3), and reducing inequality (SDG 10) in addition to the explicit environmental SDGs (13, 14, and 15). For example, the restoring and maintaining of intact rangelands for sustainable grazing supports food security, contributes to local poverty alleviation, improves water quality by providing a filtering service, and improves the state of biodiversity in these ecosystems. Natural rangelands in the commercial agricultural sector are worth over US$77,300/ha/yr.18