In the United States, Pimentel et al., (1997) estimated the annual economic benefits of ecosystem services at approximately $300 billion.
People value such areas for a variety of recreational pursuits like film, photographs or literature based on or using wildlife, natural habitats and natural features bird watching ecological field study and other scientific pursuits. Australian environment is a major factor in attracting tourists. Over 85% of Japanese visitors and 70% of European and American travellers identified such factors as beautiful scenery and wildlife as key elements of their travel decisions. In addition, it has been conservatively estimated that at least 10 million people visited natural environments in Australia in 1987/88, five million visited parks and reserves, four million visited four major zoological gardens and one million visited botanical gardens. Cultural value of biodiversity conservation for present and future generations is an important reason for conserving it today. Human cultures coevolve with their environment, and conservation of biodiversity can be important for cultural identity. Natural environment provides many inspirational, aesthetic, spiritual and educational needs of people, of all cultures, now and in future. Aesthetic values of our natural ecosystems and landscapes contribute to emotional and spiritual well-being of a highly urbanised population.
Conservation of biodiversity also has ethical benefits. Presence of a wide range of living organisms reminds people that they are one interdependent part of earth. People relationships to land and sea, and its animals and plants are complex. To these people land and sea has a deep spiritual, economic, social, protective and recreational significance. By hunting and gathering, tribal aboriginal people are supplementing their diet with food very high in nutritional value, confirming their self-sufficiency and, more importantly, educating their children in relationships to land and to other aspects of their culture.
Biodiversity conservation can contribute to conservation of Aboriginal cultural identity. Value of biodiversity also lies in the recreational use of natural areas and value that people place on natural systems for aesthetics and as part of cultural heritage. Protected lands constitute wilderness of global significance for biodiversity with enormous value for quality of life of people of the region.
In 1996, more than 3 million people reported engaging in wildlife watching in Illinois, contributing an estimated $ 1.6 billion to the economy (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Bureau of the Census 1998).
High levels of use of region’s natural areas indicated importance of these areas and their biodiversity to quality of life in region. Attractiveness of region as a place to life and work is also a critical factor in its future economic competitiveness (Johnson, 1999). Healthy natural areas are key for biodiversity. They provide unparalleled opportunities of outdoor recreation that millions of people want. This includes feelings of ethical obligation to protect other species from extinction, religious values associated with cherishing the earth and its inhabitants and desires to leave the natural resources for future generations.
Importance of one’s natural heritage cannot be estimated in dollars. Nonetheless there is value in sense of discovery that comes to each new generation as it learns the essential facts of what came before.