by Lisa Wallace, Executive Director

Wetlands can provide ecosystem services such as improving water quality and reducing peak flood flows.

Here’s a link to a short radio piece on the economy and the environment.

When an accident or a type of land use eliminates or harms wetlands or meadows or other ecosystems, economists and scientists ask: “What is the value of those of wetlands? Or meadows?  Or a species?  How does the value of that land change?”

Answers often come like this: “X number of acres (or species) are damaged, so to compensate, X number of acres need to preserved or restored.” This is a cataloging approach – listing the harm to vegetation and wildlife.

The problem with cataloging is that other types of values, often called ecosystem services, are excluded.  Values such as a wetland area containing storm surges or filtering pollutants out of stormwater.

The value of services can be difficult to calculate because of large gaps in data on ecosystems, the multiple services they provide, and their complexity. 

The National Academy of Sciences is using new economic models to determine ecosystem services values.  The benefit of the models is that we have a comprehensive assessment of damages and more flexibility in choosing and designs restoration plans that replace the lost services.