Posidonia meadows are vital for a healthy marine ecosystem. Archive photo. | Ultima Hora

According to the professor of applied economics at the University of the Balearics, Antoni Riera, the 65,000 hectares of posidonia sea grass around the Balearics and the 486 hectares of beaches and coves in Majorca generate environmental and tourist services that can be valued at 80 million euros per annum.

At a conference in Palma to coincide with the climate change convention in Madrid, Riera said yesterday that this valuation should enable public authorities to improve decision-making and to justify spending equivalent sums on protection.

Impact of tourism

He stated that the objective was to go beyond the valuing of urban development and to take into the account the capacity that ecosystems have in providing essential services for people’s well-being and for economic development and the relationship with the impact of tourism.

Conservation is therefore not just for cultural reasons, but for social and economic ones as well. Studies show that the posidonia meadows have a value of 12.4 million euros in terms of coastal protection service in that these meadows help to prevent erosion.

They contribute 5.5 million euros to improving biological productivity and 3.2 million euros to improving seawater quality.

With regard to beaches and coves, their value centres on cultural as well as recreational services.

The value for tourists is estimated to be 59.2 million euros in all. A further aspect of the studies is that “loyal” tourists would pay 1.12 euros per day in order to prevent the loss of a metre of beach, 0.27 euros per day to stop the loss one per cent of posidonia, and 0.82 euros per day so that beaches aren’t red-flagged, e.g. because of the presence of jellyfish.

German tourists are said to be more willing to make such payments than their British counterparts.