Untitled Document

Economic Values of Wetlands

Wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems in the world,
comparable to rainforests and coral reefs.

—The Encyclopedia of Earth

How do we place a value on the services wetlands provide? And should we?

From the jobs created for people employed when a wetland restoration is planned, designed, implemented and adaptively managed to the vital role wetlands can or may play in securing shorelines against the impacts of flood waters or rising tides, recharging our ground water, sequestering carbon, or simply for their beauty and recreation opportunities, there are so many ways in which wetlands contribute to our quality of life.

Here we house a collection of reports and studies related to the economic values of wetlands and wetland restoration. Please share with us any other information you think belongs here by sending to cwarner@sfbayjv.org.

Job Creation

Restoration Returns - The Contribution of Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program (PFW) and Coastal Program Restoration Projects to Local US Economies
Lead Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Release Date: February 2014

This report quantifies how the money spent in support of restoration projects during one fiscal year (FY2011) circulates through a community by generating employment and other economic activity. The study looks at both state and project level with fifteen sample projects across the country. Highlights/Considerations: “Multiplier Effect”: The PFW and Coastal Program funds are multiplied in two dimensions. First, the program expertise and funding is able to leverage additional resources from other partners that support projects. Second, spending creates work, generates tax revenues, and stimulates economic activity as wages and purchases flow through the economy. Together, these impacts are known as the “multiplier effect.” For PFW and Coastal Programs, every dollar spent on restoration returns $1.90 in economic activity. In California, the rate of return is $2.10 for every dollar spent. The sample projects were chosen to reflect variety in scope, size and partner organizations and all were completed in FY2011

Resource Document: usfws-restoration-returns.pdf

Natural Capital

Healthy Lands & Healthy Economies (HLHE) Initiative
Lead Agency: Sonoma County Ag + Open Space, the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority, and the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz

Release Date: November 2018

This is the first-ever regional report describing the economic value and community benefits of the natural and working landscapes in Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Sonoma counties, as well as a report focused on Sonoma County including multiple case studies. The Healthy Lands and Healthy Economies Initiative is a regional collaboration led by Sonoma County Ag + Open Space, the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County, and the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority to quantify the benefits and economic values that are provided to the community by working lands and natural areas.

Measuring the Value of Nature in Santa Clara County
Lead Agency: Open Space Authority Santa Clara Valley

Release Date: January 2014

This concise report estimates the value of ecosystem services in Santa Clara County using generally accepted valuation methods such as market pricing, economic replacement cost, changes in property values and willingness to pay. The study assigns a range of values for ecosystem services based on prior studies of comparable goods and services in locations similar to Santa Clara County. The specific ecosystem services valued by the study were derived from vegetation or land cover types present. The services evaluated included clean air, water quality and water supply, climate stability, moderation of storm events, wildlife habitat, pollination, soil retention, healthy food, recreation, tourism, science and education. Highlights Healthy Lands & Healthy Economies found that each year, Santa Clara County’s natural capital provides a stream of ecosystem services to people and the local economy that range in value from $1.6 billion to $3.9 billion. If the County’s natural capital were valued similarly to infrastructure such as roads, buildings and bridges (built capital) that depreciate over time, its minimum asset value would be between $45 billion and $107 billion. When calculated as non-depreciable assets, the County’s natural capital asset value is between $162 and $386 billion. By comparison, the County’s total assessed property value is approximately $335 billion.

Recreational / Commercial

Birding in the United States: A Demographic and Economic Analysis Addendum to the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife- Associated Recreation
Lead Agency: US Fish and Wildlife Service

Release Date: December 2013

This report provides the latest information on the demographics of birders with estimates of how much they spend on their hobby. It is the most comprehensive survey of wildlife recreation in the United States. In 2011, there were 47 million birdwatchers, 16 years of age and older ... about 20 percent of the population. As the report puts forth, "by understanding who birders are, they can be more easily reached and informed about pressures facing birds and bird habitats." In addition to providing information about birders and birding across the country, the report finds that trip-related and equipment-related expenditures associated with birding generated nearly $107 billion in total industry output, 666,000 jobs, and $13 billion in local, state, and federal tax revenue in 2011.

Resource Document: Birding-in-the-United-States-Report-2011.pdf

More Habitat Means More Fish
Lead Agency: Restore America's Estuaries, NOAA and The American Sportfishing Association

Release Date: January 2013

This report creates a case for restoration based on numerous examples of population returns upon restoration completion. Short and concise, the report has good graphics, but lacks any hard figures on numbers regarding economic returns with this one exception Highlights $21 million in economic benefits over 50 years are expected to flow from the modernization of diking and drainage structures in the farmland around Fisher Slough in Washington's Skagit Delta. This effort has restored critical tidal channel habitat and access to upstream areas, resulting in population increases in both fish and their prey. In addition to fisheries benefits, farmers will have reduced crop damage from flooding and lower maintenance costs.

San Francisco Bay Specific

Cost Benefits of Green Infrastructure: Analysis of the Costs and Benefits of Using Tidal Marsh Restoration as a Sea Level Rise Adaptation Strategy in San Francisco Bay (a.k.a Horizontal Levee report)
Lead Agency: ESA and PWA for the Bay Institute

Release Date: February 2013

This study describes and evaluates the costs and benefits of employing marsh restoration as an adaptation strategy to rising sea levels in San Francisco Bay. The study examined two strategies available to prevent or reduce the impact of shoreline flooding in San Francisco Bay caused by sea level rise. It compared the traditional approach that relies on construction of engineered earthen levees to a hybrid approach that combines tidal marsh restoration with construction of levees. The study analyzed the capacity of tidal marshes to reduce waves during storm surges and, thereby, reduce the need to build larger levees in the absence of buffering tidal marsh. Further, the study calculated the costs of the two approaches to determine whether one is more cost effective than the other. It was concluded that an earthen levee with 200 foot tidal marsh before it would cost approximately half that of one without marsh per mile (7.1.1) the hybrid marsh-levee is known as the "horizontal levee". Highlights (from chapter 4 - Economic Values of Services Performed by Tidal Marshes) The 4 most significant ecosystem services of SF Bay wetlands were defined as: Flood risk management and erosion control, Pollution control and improvement of water quality, Carbon sequestration, and Habitat for target wildlife species. No literature specific to SF Bay that estimates the value of storm-protection services - however, comparable studies of values in the UK and Texas are included as reference/li> Value of carbon sequestration - tidal wetlands sequester about .9 tons of carbon/acre/year which translates into a value of about $20- $220/acre/year The Nature Conservancy California explores financing options for the "horizontal levee" in January 2015 white paper: http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/california/ca-natural-infrastructure-white-paper.pdf

San Francisco Bay Subtidal Habitat Goals Project: Economic Valuation of San Francisco Bay Natural Resrouce Services
Lead Agency: Battelle Memorial Institute (Portland) for NOAA

Release Date: July 2008

This report documents a broad range of environmental values and stratifies each according to the components that collectively comprise total economic value " i.e., direct-use value, indirect-use value, non-use value, and intrinsic value. Values are identified in tables. For each value, the table summarizes the results of the qualitative, and in some cases quantitative, assessment presented in the report. Values included are substantive and range from commercial fishing to mineral extraction, scientific research to wastewater assimilation and water transportation.

Wetlands Globally

Benefits Transfer: The Economic Values of the World’s Wetlands
Lead Agency: Luke Brander and Kirsten Schuyt

Release Date: January 2004

This study (2004) performed a “value transfer” approach, using existing economic value studies to come up with a valuation of wetlands, globally. To begin, 197 wetland studies were reviewed and 89 of these were found suitable for this approach. Then, using statistical regression analysis, a wetland value function was obtained. Wetland values were determined using a number of variables " such as wetland type, income per capita, population density and wetland size. The estimated value function was then available to help predict the value of wetlands of policy interest with similar characteristics. Finally, values were transferred to 3,800 wetland sites around the world (63 million hectares) in order to estimate a global economic value of wetlands which was estimated at $3.4 billion/year. Sediment wetlands have the highest values, followed by freshwater wooded wetlands ($374 and $206 per hectare per year respectively)

Wetlands (coastal and other) Nationally

The Economic Benefits of Cleaning Up the Chesapeake
Lead Agency: Spencer Phillips and Beth McGee for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Release Date: October 2014

This is a peer-reviewed report that compares the values of “benefits provided by nature in the Chesapeake Bay watershed” in 2009 with those expected as a result of fully implementing the Chesapeake “Clean Water Blueprint”. They also have a great website! Stated - "A saved Bay is worth nearly 130 billion " an increase of 22 billion a year.” They offer a shared infographics page: http://www.cbf.org/news-media/features-publications/reports/economic-benefits-of-cleaning-up-the-chesapeake-bay/infographics Good model website with -what people are saying, methods, shareable infographics The study addresses only benefits, not costs

The Economic Case for Restoring Coastal Ecosystems
Lead Agency: Center for American Progress, OxFam America and Abt Associates

Release Date: April 2014

In an effort to determine just how valuable the benefits of restoring coastal ecosystems might be, the Center for American Progress and Oxfam America collaborated with a research team at Abt Associates, a consulting firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to identify and analyze 3 coastal restoration sites of the 50 that NOAA funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, or ARRA. Abt produced a detailed economic analysis5 of three sites: an oyster reef and sea grass restoration project in the Seaside Bays of Virginia, an oyster reef project in Mobile Bay, Alabama, and salt marsh restoration in San Francisco Bay, California. The detailed report describes what coastal restoration projects entail and the methodology behind the findings. The report concludes with recommendations for future action. Highlights Job creation: economists with NOAA found that $1 million invested in coastal restoration creates 17.1 jobs on average. This compares to job growth from industrial coastal activities, such as oil and gas development, in which $1 million of investment creates an average of just 8.9 jobs Recreation: 200 million Americans visit the coast each year. Flood Protection: An acre of wetlands can store 1-1.5 million gallons of floodwater. In the SBSP project a cost of 8.2 million yielded a total economic output from spending on the project of 8.07 million with a lifetime value of benefits provided estimated at $68.9-220 million resulting in a benefit-cost ratio of 18.45. Averaging the benefit cost ratios across 3 restoration projects, including SBSP, each dollar invested by taxpayers returnd more than $15 in net economic benefits Full Report: https://cdn.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/CoastalRestoration_report2.pdf

How Much Is Clean Water Worth?
Lead Agency: Jim Morrison

Release Date: January 2005

This article looks at the choice NYC made to restore the Catskills watershed for 1.3 billion rather than build an expensive filtration plant (6-8 billion to install and annual budget of 350-400k to operate) and cites a bunch of statistics on ecological “capital assets” including a 2001 FWS report stating 1.5 million people fished that year = 2 billion economic benefit to state. Says the interest in placing economic value on ecosystems came from a 1997 Nature report that estimated total global value to be at 33 trillion which was later scoffed at. Highlights/Conclusion Natural Capital: What's the Annual Dollar Value Of...? Recreational saltwater fishing in the United States = $20 billion Wild bee pollinators to a single coffee farm in Costa Rica = $60,000 Tourism to view bats in the city of Austin, Texas = $8 million Wildlife watching in the United States = $85 billion U.S. employment income generated by wildlife watching = $27.8 billion State and federal tax revenues from wildlife watching =$6.1 billion Natural pest control services by birds and other wildlife to U.S. farmers = $54 billion

Websites with Wetland Values and Other Related Information

EPA Ecological Research Program
Lead Agency: United States Environmental Protection Agency

Offers decision support tools and other ecosystem service related resources

Lead Agency: United Nations Convention on Wetlands

Covers/explains many values of wetlands

The Natural Capital Project
Lead Agency: The Nature Conservancy, WWF, Stanford University

Working since 2006 to integrate the values of nature into all major decisions affecting the environment and human well-being and is focused on living natural capital assets " ecosystems that, if properly managed, yield a flow of vital services both to humans and nature.” by providing tools, science that links land-use decisions to quantifiable changes and new financial markets " applied to demonstration projects including the Sierra Nevada” They have a page devoted to projects in CA mainly coastal.

The value of wetlands
Lead Agency: World Wildlife Fund

Provides wetland values in numbers " i.e. wetlands “worth” 15 trillion (1997), wetlands provide storm protection services estimated value of $23.2 billion/year), and a cursory list of wetland services: habitat, flood control, clean water, food supply, shoreline/storm protection, cultural, materials/medicine, recreation

Examples of Wetland Projects/Case Studies Using Economic Valuation

Estimating the change in Ecosystem Service Values from Coastal restoration
Lead Agency: Center for American Progress, OxFam America and Abt Associates

This is from the ABT group that did the Oxfam Ec Benefits report and offers a nice example of how to show benefits in ex summary page (intro).

Socioeconomic Benefits of the Fisher Slough Restoration Project
Lead Agency: The Nature Conservancy and The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Washington state project completed in the fall of 2011 restoring tidal wetlands and improved flood storage capacity with the Skagit River Delta.

How economic valuation studies influenced natural gas extraction in the Dutch Wadden Sea - NL
Lead Agency: EU Environment Commission

SUSTAINABLE USE OF RESOURCES: Preserving coastal environment (its functioning and integrity) to share space. SUSTAINABLE ECONOMIC GROWTH: Balancing economic, social, cultural development whilst enhancing environment