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News Article

Could a species stock market combat deforestation?

A recent paper published in Research Ideas and Outcomes discusses the potential of a species stock market to quantify the value of different species and translate the need to conserve biodiversity into the universal language of money.

In the face of constant difficulties with gathering interest and momentum behind conservation and restoration efforts, a group of researchers from Estonia and Sweden have published a paper proposing that a ‘species stock market’ (SSM) represents a possible solution.

Species are often considered in terms of their value to humans, and the ‘ecosystem services’ that they provide. However, to date it has been challenging to quantify this value, which makes it difficult to deliver clear and relatable evidence in support of their conservation. The researchers propose that the idea of an SSM would establish a unified basis for the valuation of all living and extinct species and an economical system for their protection and loss, taking into account scientific, societal and economic perspectives.

In order to create the SSM, a three-step process is proposed, including the formation of digital species, a subsequent (and dynamic) valuation of each species and the creation of a trading system for the species. Digital species are a previously established concept, comprising all records of individuals of a species (including living specimens, tissue samples and DNA sequences) along with all associated metadata.

Each species would then be assigned a value, assuming a baseline value for all species from a non-anthropogenic perspective and with anthropogenic values calculated based on a range of traits including their ecosystem services value and citation rate in scientific publications. These values would be connected to the digital species records, enabling a fully interconnected and automated database.

Once a dynamic database of species ‘value’ has been established, the SSM would be able to quantify changes to species distribution in much the same manner as ‘trading’ in the regular stock market. However, in this case ‘selling’ would be the act of terminating or reducing a number of individuals of a species, thereby creating an invoice of sorts, and ‘buying’ would be any action that in some way benefits biodiversity. In this way, it is suggested that a SSM would create a continuously updating system by which actions such as deforestation could be quantified in terms of the biodiversity lost and the value of the action needed to offset it.

The researchers argue that while the crossover between taxonomy and economy may not be easy, they see no better way to address the ongoing biodiversity crisis than to enter species into a monetary system subject to public trade.

The full article can be read here.

Article details

  • Author(s)
  • James Cullum
  • Date
  • 22 June 2022