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A Preliminary Ecological-Economic Estimation of the Environmental Service Loss Due to the Current Ecological Conflict in the Isla Portillos Region in the Caribe Noreste Wetland in Northeastern Costa Rica Bernardo Aguilar-Gonz谩lez Executive Director, Fundaci贸n Neotr贸pica; President, Mesoamerican Society for Ecological Economics*.

*affiliation for identification purposes only

A brief introduction of who we are • 25 years for sustainable development - Promote the fair and intelligent use of natural resources through innovative initiatives that promote human development - More information at

Sustainable development • Promoted through a process of ecological democracy that integrates community efforts with conservation and development at diverse scales in a socioenvironmental-cultural mosaic in which conflict resolution is made possible.

Our interest in wetlands

Two countries with socio-ecological conflicts and valuable wetland resources HN Caribe Noreste

RVS RĂ­o San JuĂĄn

The conflict area

The conflict area

The RAMSAR Advising Mission N. 68 Report •

Is an official document by an independent technical international organization responding to the request of Costa Rica It presents information on the damage that the works being done in the area of conflict is causing without entering into consideration in the resolution of the conflict It defines an immediate direct influence area ( 225 ha.) where those impacts are ocurring It considers an indirect influence area yet does not define a size

It considers the wealth of the area from an integral perspective: biodiversity, hydrogeological , social, etc. It forecasts effects over this wealth in both areas in the short, mid and long term referring Makes recommendations considering the open nature of the resource, the need for international cooperation, strict impact assesments, a joint monitoring system and the impacts of deforestation and changing the flow and drainage patterns of the rivers for the health of the wetland including to list as threatened.

The UNOSAT Report 4-1-11

Costa Rican Scientist Concerns

Nicaraguan NGO & SC Position and Costa Rican NGO & SC Concerns Nicaraguan NGOs & SC

Costa Rica NGOs & SC

• Unwillingness today to dialogue or join efforts • Rejecting Costa Rica´s Claim and allegued damages • Rejection of RAMSAR report • Little to no comment on the impacts of the works on the RVSRSJ • Position presented in official web sites

• Supporting the efforts of the CR Government (even if at times at odds with it) to stop the damages caused to the transborder resources • Calling for actions in the country to demonstrate level of support and commitment (78% TNC survey) • Calling for the inervention of the international community to stop the ecocide on all the resources involved.

Purpose of the valuation exercise • Use the credible technical information, applied with success in other wetland conservation projects in Costa Rica, that is available to help raise awareness of the global environmental service loss at stake to make consequences more tangible in view of the expressions that while rejecting the results of the RAMSAR report have called the area a worthless swamp; • To be able to establish parameter comparisons with the economic benefits that may be generated by the works executed; • To use the value not as a comprehensive tool to “commodify” nature but as a sensitizing and education tool on the level of the impact generated; • To foster discussion as to how to increase all stakeholder (especially civil society and community) participation in the resolution of this environmental conflict.

Methodological Framework • Approach dates to the 1960 with the basics of hedonic valuation; • Retaken by ecological economists, famous Nature paper (Costanza, et. al., 1997); • Value Transfer Methodology based on a survey of valuation studies worldwide which is done by the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics of the University of Vermont; • Being developed into a combination with GIS methodologies: ARIES methodology; • Theoretical model used lately for reputable studies like the The Economics of Ecosystems & Biodiversity (2008), hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme and supported by the European Commission and governments throughout the world;

Methodological Framework •

The report outlines the cost of policy inaction and finds that under a ‘business as usual’ scenario a year's natural capital loss would lead to a loss of ecosystem services worth in the order of US$ 2.0-4.5 trillion over a 50 year period (calculated as net present values using a 4% and 1% real discount rate). The report also describes in economic terms the deep links between eliminating poverty and conserving biodiversity and ecosystems. It highlights the importance of looking at ecosystem services not merely as a percentage of national GDP, but also as a percentage of the ’GDP’ of poor rural and forest-dwelling communities who depend on forests for their livelihood.

Methodological Framework

Results Total Value Estimation: Assumptions • Only based on the immediate influence area according to RAMSAR report. • Assume the land use to be wetland and flooded forests with the exception of 20 hectares of mangrove. • State of ecosystem service provision assumed to be at min and max according to the methodology to give a broad range. • Discount rate similar to TEEB study 1% and 4%.

Results Total Value Estimation NPV 10 years

NPV100 years


$ 5.921.516,73

$ 39.406.035,23


$ 5.070.980,97

$ 15.320.673,20


Per Year Low $ 625.206,03

Per Year High

NPV 10 years

NPV100 years


$ 98.164.418,01

$ 653.256.706,27


$ 84.064.593,33

$ 253.979.687,49



COSTA RICA GDP 2009: $ 48.630.000.000 NICARAGUA GDP 2009: $ 16.540.000.000

Results Total Value Estimation (Other estimates-Dr. Allan Astorga)


1 year

10 years (4%)

100 years (4%)

Local (60 ha.)


$ 9.733.074,94

$ 29.405.998,80

Subregional (650 ha.)

$13.000.000 $ 105.441.645,13

$ 318.564.986,96

Regional (3000)


$ 486.653.746,76

$ 1.470.299.939,83

COSTA RICA GDP 2009: $ 48.630.000.000 NICARAGUA GDP 2009: $ 16.540.000.000

Further Research Improvements

Further Research Improvements • The Nicaraguan government should invite a RAMSAR comission to the RVSRSJ so the first report is confirmed or disproven; • A similar estimation shoud be done for affected areas in the RVSRSJ; • More open participation of the diverse stakeholders should be promoted in evaluating the impacts of the actions on the Río San Juán including civil society and immediate area communities on both sides of the border; • Being able to visit the area would allow other methodologies such as contingent valuation and other shadow price methodologies to be used in order to fine tune the estimations.

Conclusions • The estimates demonstrate that the value of ecosystem service loss due to the works being executed in the Isla Portillos region is significant and indicates the importance of the area not just for the countries involved but for all the international community; • Further RAMSAR inspections and access to all stakeholders that should be involved in the evaluation not only to the process but to the area would improve the understanding of this significance and help stop the loss; • Given this significance, the works should be stopped until satisfactory evidence is given of impact control given the stipulations of the RAMSAR convention, the Convention for Biological Diversity and other related international regulations.

Thank you • The full report and videos can be found in • Thanks to Fundecooperación for providing support for our pressence here.

Presentación DB- CIJ Holanda.  
Presentación DB- CIJ Holanda.  

Presentación de Don Bernardo en relación al conflicto con Nicaragua sobre el Humedal Caribe Noreste