What is an ecosystem worth? In one sense, the value can’t be calculated. But from tourism to agriculture to water, ecosystems provide crucial resources and services that underpin the economic life of the Hindu Kush Himalayas. Nearly 50 percent of the world’s biodiversity hotspots and 32 percent of global protected areas lie in these mountains, and they provide economic benefits at the local, national, regional and international level. But how, exactly, is this measured? How do we determine the economic value of natural resources, habitat and biodiversity?
As population growth, climate change and globalization put pressure on mountain ecosystems, we need to understand what’s at stake for the region’s economic health when ecosystems degrade, and we need to find ways to incorporate this understanding into the national policy and planning process. That’s what ICIMOD is doing by developing and testing frameworks and methodologies on economic valuation of mountain ecosystems and working to integrate the knowledge gained into policy decisions.