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The High Seas and Us Understanding the Value of High-Seas Ecosystems

Rogers et al.
Ecosystem Services

There is growing evidence that the ecosystem services provided by the high seas are of high social and economic value. The evidence also is clear that poor management of human activities on the high seas has eroded the natural wealth and productivity of high-seas ecosystems with negative economic and social consequences for all of us. In this study, 15 ecosystem services provided by the high seas are examined. We provide estimates of the economic value of two important high-seas ecosystem services: carbon storage and fisheries. We estimate that high-seas ecosystems are responsible for nearly half of the biological productivity of the global ocean. While the science of carbon sequestration in the high seas is still evolving, we estimate that nearly half a billion tonnes of carbon, the equivalent of over 1.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, are captured and stored by high-seas ecosystems annually. Based on current estimates of the economic cost of additional carbon in the atmosphere (i.e. the social cost of carbon), we find that the value of carbon storage by high-seas ecosystems ranges between US$74 billion and US$222 billion annually.