Scientists propose ‘species stock market’ to protect biodiversity

Scientists have proposed to create a ‘species stock market’ (SSM) to assign value to wildlife and put a cost on actions which put them at risk, such as deforestation and pollution.

A team of Estonian and Swedish researchers evaluated the idea in a recent study, which would act as a unified basis for instantaneous valuation.

While species wouldn’t be traded like in normal transactions, the concept of ‘selling’ would refer to processes that would erase them from specific areas.

herd of elephants near trees

Lead author of the study and a Professor at Estonia’s University of Tartu, Urmas Kõljalg, said: ‘The SSM would be able to put a price tag on such transactions, and the price could be thought of as an invoice that the seller needs to settle in some way that benefits global biodiversity.’

On the other hand, actions that benefit biodiversity would be seen as ‘buying’ on the SSM, with ‘money’ representing an investment in wildlife.

Kõljalg added: ‘By rooting such actions in a unified valuation system it is hoped that goodwill actions will become increasingly difficult to dodge and dismiss.’  

While two million species have so far been identified, it’s thought millions remain undiscovered, so the SSM relies on ‘digital species’.

These are representations of discovered wildlife and undescribed species which are thought to exist based on DNA sequences and based on knowledge of their habitat, ecology, distribution, interactions with other species and functional traits.

To find this information, global scientific and societal resources are used, including natural history collections, sequence databases, and life science data portals.

Researchers behind the SSM have suggested it be managed by the international associations of taxonomists and economists. 

Kõljalg said: ‘Non-trivial complications are foreseen when 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 thereby a cost to actions that compromise them.

‘No human being will make direct monetary profit out of the SSM, and yet it’s all Earth’s inhabitants – including humans – that could benefit from its pointers.’

Photo by Photos By Beks


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