The Great Barrier Reef — which has been under environmental stress for the past few years — could be worth more than $40 billion, according to a new report compiled by Deloitte Access Economics and commissioned by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.
The region is located off the coast of Queensland, Australia, and is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the world. Every year people flock to the clear waters to enjoy a wide number of different activities.
However, both global warming and climate change have hit the area hard in the past decade. Mass bleaching events caused by warming waters have led to coral die-offs, which in turn have caused ripples throughout the entire ecosystem. Though there is a chance such events may be over, most of the reef has already suffered. Nobody is sure how long it will take the area to heal, or if it will heal at all.
Even so, the report shows that losing the site would be an economic disaster for anyone who depends on it. Researchers estimate the region to be worth a massive $42 billion. Most of that — $29 billion — comes from the tourism industry, which supplies over 60,000 jobs. The next $24 billion is attributed to indirect value from people who know of the reef but have not yet visited, and the final $3 billion comes from recreational activities, such as boating.
The new report is the first to calculate the reef’s economic value. Researchers got the numbers by surveying 1,500 Australian and international respondents from 10 different countries. This revealed how much people have come to depend on the Unesco World Heritage Site.
“This timely report is a much needed, holistic view of the incredible economic value and opportunities provided by the Great Barrier Reef,” noted Al Gore in the report, according to Gizmodo. “Any failure to protect this indispensable natural resource would have profound impacts not only to Australia but around the world.”
Climate change is the main factor behind the reef’s decline, but it is not the only one. Boating accidents, cyclones, farming runoff, urban development, and cyclic outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish have all caused problems.
Though there is currently no solution, a team gathered last month to figure out ways to protect the area. Ideas included developing coral nurseries, expanding monitoring systems, and cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Scientists hope putting the Great Barrier Reef into economic terms will be the first step in getting people more involved in saving it.
“There has never been a more critical time to understand precisely what the reef contributes and, therefore, what we stand to lose without it,” stated the report, according to The Washington Post.
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