Scientists envision a 'stock market' for species to put a price tag on actions that pose risks to biodiversity


Species have objective value, but they also provide ecosystem services with significant economic value, such as the pollination of our crops by bees. However, because such values are difficult to put into numbers, they are currently easy to disregard. A research team proposes a species stock market for unified species value in a new study. 

This market assesses our knowledge of each species from scientific, societal, and economic perspectives by using digitized information from museums, occurrence statistics, and DNA sequence databases.

More than 2 million species have been described by science thus far, with millions more waiting to be discovered. Many species, such as insects that pollinate our crops, have value in and of themselves, but many also provide important ecological services to humanity.


Meanwhile, because there is no uniform system for valuing distinct species, it is too simple to conclude that they are practically worthless. As a result, humanity has been eager to justify activities that reduce population and even endanger biodiversity.

A group of Estonian and Swedish scientists proposes formalizing the worth of all species through a conceptual species stock market’ in a paper published in the scholarly open-science journal Research Ideas and Outcomes (SSM). The SSM, like a traditional stock exchange, will serve as a uniform basis for immediate valuation of all items in its holdings.

Other parts of the SSM, on the other hand, would be very different from the conventional stock market. New types of ownership, transactions, and trading will emerge. Species do not have owners, and ‘trade’ would not include the transfer of ownership rights between shareholders. Instead,’ selling’ would refer to processes that eliminate species from a certain area, such as conflict, deforestation, or pollution.


Prof. Urmas Kljalg, the study’s lead author, notes, “The SSM would be able to put a price tag on such transactions, and the price could be regarded of as an invoice that the seller needs to settle in some way that helps global biodiversity” (University of Tartu, Estonia).

Taking some action that improves biodiversity — as measured by individual species — would, on the other hand, be analogous to investing in the species stock market. Buying has a price tag as well, although it’s more likely to be conceived of in terms of goodwill. ‘Money’ here refers to financial investment in increasing biodiversity.


“It is envisaged that by rooting such activities in a uniform value system, goodwill actions will become increasingly difficult to avoid and ignore,” Kljalg continues.

Taking some action that improves biodiversity — as measured by individual species — would, on the other hand, be analogous to investing in the species stock market. Buying has a price tag as well, although it’s more likely to be conceived of in terms of goodwill. ‘Money’ here refers to financial investment in increasing biodiversity.


“It is envisaged that by rooting such activities in a uniform value system, goodwill actions will become increasingly difficult to avoid and ignore,” Kljalg continues.

The SSM, according to the report, is managed by a worldwide taxonomist and economist organizations.


“Non-trivial challenges are expected when putting the SSM into practice,” adds Kljalg, “but we suggest that putting a price tag on species and thus a cost to acts that harm them is the most feasible and tangible route out of the looming biodiversity crisis.”


“While no person will profit directly from the SSM, its suggestions could benefit all Earth’s occupants, including humans.”

Source:

Materials provided by Pensoft Publishers.

Reference:

Urmas Kõljalg, R. Henrik Nilsson, Arnold Tobias Jansson, Allan Zirk, Kessy Abarenkov. A price tag on species. Research Ideas and Outcomes, 2022; 8 DOI: 10.3897/rio.8.e86741

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