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Scientists conceptualize a species ‘stock market’ to put a price tag on actions posing risks to biodiversity

Scientists are inventing a kind of 'stock market' to put a price tag on actions that endanger biodiversity

A fungal example of a digital species with rich metadata about systematics, ecology, DNA data and collection sites. Credit: Dr. Kessy Abarenkov

So far, science has described more than 2 million species, and millions are waiting to be discovered. While species are valuable in their own right, many also provide important ecosystem services to humanity, such as insects that pollinate our crops.

Meanwhile, because we don’t have a standardized system to quantify the value of different species, it’s too easy to conclude that they are practically worthless. As a result, humanity has been quick to justify actions that reduce population and even endanger biodiversity in general.

In a study published in the scientific open science journal Research ideas and results, a team of Estonian and Swedish scientists proposes to formalize the value of all species through a conceptual species ‘stock market’ (SSM). Like the regular stock market, the SSM should act as a unified basis for instant valuation of all items in its possession.

However, other aspects of the SSM would be very different from the regular stock market. Ownership, transactions and trade will take on new forms. Indeed, species have no owners and ‘trading’ would not be about transferring property rights between shareholders. Instead, the concept of “selling” would encompass processes that remove species from a particular area, such as war, deforestation or pollution.

“The SSM would be able to put a price tag on such transactions, and the price could be seen as a bill that the seller has to pay in a way that benefits global biodiversity,” explains lead author Prof. Urmas Kõljalg from the research (University of Tartu, Estonia).

Conversely, taking any action that benefits biodiversity — as estimated by individuals of species — would be akin to buying in the species stock market. Buying also comes with a price tag, but this price should probably be seen in terms of goodwill. Here ‘money’ stands for an investment for more biodiversity.

“By embedding such actions in a unified valuation system, we hope that actions of goodwill will become increasingly difficult to evade and reject,” adds Kõljalg.

Interestingly, the SSM revolves around the notion of digital species. These are representations of described and undescribed species that have been determined to exist from DNA sequences and elaborated by incorporating everything we know about their habitat, ecology, distribution, interactions with other species, and functional traits.

For the SSM to function as described, those DNA sequences and metadata must come from global scientific and societal sources, including natural history collections, sequence databases and life science data portals. Digital species can be further managed by including data records of unordered individuals, especially observations, older material in collections, and data from publications.

The study proposes that the SSM be orchestrated by the international associations of taxonomists and economists.

“There are non-trivial complications to be expected in implementing the SSM in practice, but we argue that the most realistic and tangible way out of the looming biodiversity crisis is to put a price tag on species and thus costs on actions they take.” endanger,” says Kõljalg.

“No human being will make direct monetary gains from the SSM, and yet it is all inhabitants of the Earth – including humans – who can benefit from the clues.”

Newly described species have a higher risk of extinction

More information:
Urmas Kõljalg et al, A price tag on species, Research ideas and results (2022). DOI: 10.3897/rio.8.e86741

Provided by Pensoft Publishers

Quote: Scientists invent a sort of ‘stock market’ to put a price tag on actions that endanger biodiversity (2022, June 20) retrieved June 20, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06- scientists-species-stock-pricetag.html

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