The Earth Index: How much does nature add to the global economy?

Sarah Spickernell
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Bees alone add more than £100bn to the world each year
Bees alone add more than £100bn to the world each year (Source: Getty)

The Earth's natural resources are a crucial part of the world's economy, helping to drive agriculture, tourism and the production of man-made objects.

Today, BBC published its “Earth Index”, which shows how the contribution of these vital resources compares to other parts of the economy. It turns out the financial value of nature is huge, and we are set to lose a lot more than we might realise by not looking after the environment.

Freshwater is by far the biggest economic contributor, adding an estimated £48.1trn each year by keeping many other natural materials in a healthy state, such as soils, wetlands and forests. Without a plentiful supply of freshwater, there would be huge knock-on effects.

Read more: Queen bees contribute more to the UK economy than the Queen herself

Trees are the next most important natural resource for keeping the economy going, adding an estimated £10.6trn each year.

Polar bears, which are currently going through an extremely tough time thanks to melting ice in the Arctic, are the mammals that add most to the economy, while wild sea fish are the most important animals.

Overall, the 10 most important parts of the natural world for the global economy add more than £60trn each year, which is far more than any of the world's biggest companies.


1. Freshwater - £48.1trn

2. Trees - £10.6trn

3. Coral reefs - £6.5trn

4. Wild sea fish - £179bn

5. Plankton - £145bn

6. Bees & other pollinators - £111bn

7. US coastal wetlands - £15.2bn

8. Polar bears - £4.13bn

9. Sharks - £617.6m

10. Grand Canyon - £465m

Neil Nightingale, creative director for BBC Earth, said:

When you see the figures in black and white it’s illuminating to see that the annual revenues of the world’s most successful companies, Apple; General Motors; Nestle; Bank of China all pale in comparison to the financial return to our economy from natural assets.

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