Ecosystems are the "natural capital" of our economy and our world, providing valuable goods and services. Forests supply timber and absorb carbon; their roots filter water and shore up the earth against floods. Coral reefs support fisheries and protect coastlines.
But as consumption grows along with populations and their spending power, many ecosystems are struggling to keep pace. The degraded ecosystems and diminished supply of vital services that result threaten our wellbeing and economies. The poor who live in and rely on healthy ecosystems for their livelihoods suffer most from these shortages.
The root of this problem is undervaluing natural capital. Many of the goods and services that ecosystems provided have long been treated as free.
There are reasons for hope. Many communities now appreciate the idea of sustainability, or the respectful use of what we have today so there is enough for tomorrow. Global businesses, non-profits, governments and local communities are collaborating on ways to properly value ecosystems and preserve them for the future. They are developing new accounting, rewards and payments for environmental services systems.
From November 4-8 experts from public, private and research sectors met to explore ways to better value ecosystems today to ensure their healthy existence tomorrow.
"Revaluing Ecosystems" is funded and hosted by the Rockefeller Foundation, and is organized with the participation of The World Resources Institute and The Economist Intelligence Unit.