The gross ecosystem product (GEP) of the Hainan Tropical Rainforest National Park in south China’s Hainan province, a pilot area of the country’s national park system, surpassed 204.5 billion yuan ($31.6 billion) in 2019, according to research results released on Sept. 26.
GEP, referring to the total economic value of all the final ecosystem products and services supplied by ecosystems to human well-being and economic and social sustainable development, mainly includes the value of material products, regulating services, and cultural services provided by ecosystems.
Li Yide, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Forestry (CAF), believes that GEP, which places a price tag on ecosystem products and services and specifies the amount of their economic value, helps people better understand that a sound ecological environment means tremendous wealth for Hainan, home to China’s densest, best-preserved, and largest contiguous tropical rainforest.
Besides, the calculation of GEP is an essential precondition for promoting its application in ecological protection incentives, ecological damage compensation, financing for ecosystem product and service development and operation, as well as trade in ecological resource rights.
The calculation of the GEP of the national park mainly requires drawing a map of ecosystems in the region, determining ecosystem products and services to be calculated, collecting data and establishing models, measuring the biophysical value of ecosystem goods and services, as well as pricing them and calculating their monetary value.
During the first step, drawing a map of ecosystems, the national park was divided into different geographical units, each of which was marked with its ecosystem type, tree species, height and crown density, as well as other attributes. Then 19 indexes under the three indicators of material products, regulating services and cultural services were considered in the GEP calculation for the national park.
To obtain these key parameters, the research team conducted extensive field research, with more than 200 fixed sample plots set up, and conducted interviews and questionnaire surveys.
Pricing ecosystem goods and services is necessary for determining their value based on previous surveys.
“For ecological products that haven’t entered the market yet, we mainly calculate their monetary value through a surrogate market approach and a simulated market method,” pointed out Chen Dexiang, director of the Jianfengling national field scientific observation and research station for forest ecosystem in Hainan under the CAF.
“To put it simply, a surrogate market approach means determining the value of non-marketed ecological goods by replacing them with similar ones with known prices; and by a simulated market method, we price non-marketed goods based on consumers’ willingness to pay,” Chen explained.
The GEP calculation has improved people’s ecological awareness. “I never thought the natural environment in my hometown can be so valuable,” said Fu Jingkai, secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) committee in Qingsong township, Baisha Li autonomous county of Hainan. The township is located in the Hainan Tropical Rainforest National Park.
“We can also try including the total value of ecological products in the comprehensive performance evaluation of the achievements of CPC committees and governments in promoting high-quality development,” Li noted.
Based on GEP, it is also possible to establish a benefit-oriented mechanism for ecological and environmental protection, and encourage local governments in China to establish diversified capital investment mechanisms, and call on social organizations to set up ecological public welfare funds to promote the realization of the value of ecological products, he added.