New Report Quantifies the Values that Wetland Forests Provide the Communities of the Southern US
By Scot Quaranda
Asheville, North Carolina – On World Wetlands Day, a new report from Dogwood Alliance, “Treasures of the South: The True Value of Wetland Forests,” highlights and places values on the important services that forested wetlands provide to protect and build communities across the Southern US. Conservative estimates place the value at over $500 billion in the 14 state region stretching from Virginia to Texas.
Examining the important services that wetlands provide to the people of the region including protection from flooding and extreme weather events, clean drinking water, recreation, tourism and many more, researchers were able to determine the overall value including a state by state breakdown.
Since colonial times, over 80% of forested wetlands in the region have been lost, and now only 35 million acres remain with only a strikingly inadequate 10% protected. Climate change, continued conversion to agriculture and tree plantations, logging, and other damaging impacts threaten the future of these vital places.
“Our wetland forests are truly priceless and should be protected and restored,” said Dr. Sam Davis, Research Director at Dogwood Alliance. “We hope that placing a price tag on all of their values will help local, state, and national politicians find the will to preserve these national treasures rather than continuing to blindly support their destruction.”
Investing in wetland forest conservation and restoration, rather than logging for short-term profit, would dramatically increase all of the important services that wetlands provide. By shifting the focus of management from timber production to native ecosystem health, wetland forests increase over 15 fifteen times in value from about $1,200 per acre to $18,600 per acre. And more acres protected, expanded riparian buffers, and improving forest management practices could add nearly $50 billion in value to our region.
Two of the world’s most expensive natural disasters in 2016 occurred in the South. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, in late 2017, are both expected to cost over $100 billion in damages each by the time recovery efforts are complete. Without investing in our wetland forests, the result may be reducing our communities’ abilities to flourish economically and thrive in a changing climate.
“From Houston, Baton Rouge, the Florida Keys, the Upstate of South Carolina and the North Carolina coast, communities have been inundated by extreme weather event,” continued Davis.
“The huge price tag associated with disaster recovery after major hurricanes and flooding over the last several years should be reason enough to rally for greater protection.”
To download a pdf of the full report, go here.
To view new, interactive webpages with information on wetlands across the South, including a state by state breakdown, go here.