Can economic forces be harnessed for biodiversity conservation? The answer hinges on characterizing the value of nature, a tricky business from biophysical, socioeconomic, and ethical perspectives. Although the societal benefits of native ecosystems are clearly immense, they remain largely unquantified for all but a few services. Here, we estimate the value of tropical forest in supplying pollination services to agriculture. We focus on coffee because it is one of the world’s most valuable export commodities and is grown in many of the world’s most biodiverse regions. Using pollination experiments along replicated distance gradients, we found that forest-based pollinators increased coffee yields by 20% within ≈1 km of forest. Pollination also improved coffee quality near forest by reducing the frequency of “peaberries” (i.e., small misshapen seeds) by 27%. During 2000–2003, pollination services from two forest fragments (46 and 111 hectares) translated into ≈$60,000 (U.S.) per year for one Costa Rican farm. This value is commensurate with expected revenues from competing land uses and far exceeds current conservation incentive payments. Conservation investments in human-dominated landscapes can therefore yield double benefits: for biodiversity and agriculture.
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