You may have noticed that the conservation can be contentious. But no matter how you feel about bees or trees or even fleas, here is one totally practical argument for keeping as many species around as possible: biodiversity is good for the economy.
For example, in a recent study co-authored by Peter Reich, scientists looked at tons of forests around the world and found that stands with more tree species grow faster and bigger than those with fewer species. Which makes sense: trees of a single species all have the same approaches to getting light, nutrients and water, so they end up competing with each other, while trees of different species have different approaches, so they compete less, and together actually use a larger portion of the available resources. And those gains add up to a lot: the world’s logged forests produce at least 35% more timber than they would if each stand of trees had only one species, to the tune of at least 200 billion dollars in additional revenue each year.
This biodiversity dividend is at least 20 times more than the total amount of money we currently spend on conservation. And economists are finding real diversity dividends in other places too; on farm fields, for instance, different pollinators go to work at different times, so keeping a diverse set of insects around helps ensure that crops will bear fruit and cash whenever they flower. And in our lakes and rivers, the more kinds of toxin-munching microbes there are, the more pollutants they can clean up, keeping down the multi-billion dollar cost of maintaining clean waterways.
Of course, it is hard to give biodiversity a dollar value in each and every ecosystem and money is not the only way we want to measure the value of nature. But in lots of places, healthier, more biodiverse ecosystems appear to translate to a healthier bottom line. So despite what you may have heard, money really does grow on trees! And bees! We are… still not sure about fleas.