Investing in measures to protect the biodiversity of Southeast Asia’s forests and seas could produce benefits valued at more than $2.19 trillion a year – while slowing down climate change – according to a new study published by the Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM).

That result could be achieved if $10 billion was invested now, rising to $46 billion by 2030, says Eco-Business. The study’s authors point out that the investment is a tiny fraction of the possible paybacks in job creation, higher incomes, and a more sustainable environment.

“Southeast Asia is one of the most mega biodiverse regions of the globe, boasting the most extensive and diverse coral reefs and mangrove areas on the planet,” said Professor Emerita Datuk Dr. Asma Ismail, ASM President, in the report. “We must open our eyes and minds to the fact that these are national treasures of great sovereign worth.”

But those treasures are under threat across the world, with the United Nations warning nature is declining and species are becoming extinct at an unprecedented rate.

The ASM study highlights how the loss of biodiversity could lead to significant economic risks, but: “Viewed from another vantage point, there is considerable opportunity for countries and regions around the world to embrace biodiversity conservation and invest in natural infrastructure … for development, job creation and socio-economic growth.”

Conserving the seas

The researchers highlight nature conservation projects in the region which prove the point. One example is the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary in eastern Cambodia, which is the ancestral home of the Bunong people and provides a habitat for more than 40 threatened species, including Asian Elephants and birds like the Giant Ibis.

A project there has succeeded in minimizing deforestation and cutting emissions while increasing income for the local community by creating 449 jobs in law enforcement, community patrols, conservation and eco-tourism.

There are economic rewards for looking after Southeast Asia’s rich marine environment, too. The ASM cites the Tun Mustapha marine park in Malaysia which houses more than 250 species of coral reefs, and 400 different types of fish and animals including sea turtles and humpback whales whose survival is under threat.

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