As biodiversity declines, a fifth of countries worldwide are at risk from ecosystem collapse according to a new study by the Swiss Re Institute on habitats, water security and air quality.
Countries across the world rely on a range of biodiversity and ecosystem “services”, like food provision and water security, which are vital to maintaining the health and stability of communities and economies.
“Over half (55%) of global GDP, equal to USD 41.7 trillion, is dependent on high-functioning biodiversity and ecosystem services. However, a staggering fifth of countries globally (20%) are at risk of their ecosystems collapsing due to a decline in biodiversity and related beneficial services,” say researchers.
The study, which is based on Swiss Re Institute's new Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (BES) Index, shows that both developing and advanced economies are at risk.
Among G20 economies, South Africa and Australia top the rankings of those with fragile services. The impact of water scarcity is an issue for these countries, along with factors such as coastal protection and pollination.
Major economies in Southeast Asia, Europe and America are also at risk from these declines, despite having diversified economies. Individual economic sectors can be impacted by single factors, such as water scarcity, which can have a disruptive effect on a country's manufacturing sectors, properties and supply chains.
Thirty-nine countries have ecosystems in a fragile state on more than a third of their land – Malta, Israel, Cyprus, Bahrain and Kazakhstan are the countries with the lowest rankings.
The new index enables businesses and governments to factor in biodiversity and ecosystem issues into economic decision-making, Christian Mumenthaler, Swiss Re's Group Chief Executive Officer, explains.
“This important piece of work provides a data-driven foundation for understanding the economic risks of deteriorating biodiversity and ecosystems. In turn, we can inform governmental decision-making to help improve ecosystem restoration and preservation,” Mumenthaler says. “We can also support corporations and investors as they fortify themselves against environmental shocks. Armed with this information, we can also ensure the provision of stronger insurance services.”
Jeffrey Bohn, Swiss Re's Chief Research Officer, adds, "This index also underlines the important need for relevant nature-based insurance solutions and will create a new business segment for insurance, thereby strengthening resilience of affected regions and communities.”