You can't really put a price on the world's great natural marvels—or can you?
A report issued by the accounting firm Deloitte Access Economics has assigned an estimated monetary value to Australia's Great Barrier Reef, the 1,400-mile (2,300 km) stretch of coral that supports more than 1,700 different marine species and is currently the title holder for World's Largest Living Thing.
Altogether, the reef was found to be worth $42.5 billion (A$56 billion).
The report, which was commissioned by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, tallies the vast ecosystem's economic impact in the forms of tourist dollars spent and Australian jobs supported (over 64,000 of them, either directly or indirectly). But the final figure also attempts to account for the reef's cultural and environmental importance, both to Australia and the world.
Assigning a dollar figure to the Great Barrier Reef is a way of illustrating how devastating its loss would be—an urgent reminder in a time of widespread coral bleaching and climate change. According to a recent UNESCO study, all 29 of the planet's significant coral reef systems will be gone by the end of the century without dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
As the Deloitte report puts it, the Great Barrier Reef is "too big to fail."