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This handbook explores and explains the relationship between human economies and natural systems, and it provides an understanding of the historic disconnect between the environment and the economy. It introduces new tools and principles that recognize the economic importance of our planet's natural systems and provides mechanisms to foster the changes needed to preserve our planet's precious natural resources.
This study presents an economic assessment of the impacts and benefits of implementing a national marine sanctuary around St. George Island, Alaska. Both market and non-market impacts were assessed using the benefit transfer method and data on local markets. This study finds that implementing a national marine sanctuary around St. George Island may have substantial benefits, including: at least four full-time jobs, $200,000 in annual government spending to support a sanctuary office, $140,000 to $1 million in expenditures due to research grants, $55,000 to $240,000 in annual recreation expenditures, $22,000 to $44,000 in estimated subsistence harvest annually, and $2.8 billion to $3.3 billion in annual non-market ecosystem service benefits.
El Paso’s abundant natural capital is a critical part of the regional ecosystem and the economy. The shrublands surrounding the Franklin Mountains support rich biodiversity, capture water for the Hueco Bolson aquifer, and provide many other benefits directly to local residents, including increased property values and improved health via recreation. This first-ever ecosystem services valuation of El Paso’s natural capital finds that El Paso’s shrubland contributes $3.4 million to $6.7 million in ecosystem service benefits each year. When viewed as a natural capital asset that provides a flow of benefits over time, El Paso’s natural capital has an asset value between $107 million and $211 million over a 100-year lifespan and at a three percent discount rate. With sufficient stewardship to maintain the health and function of El Paso’s natural capital, this economic contribution will continue in perpetuity.
This study presents a first-ever ecosystem services valuation of the ecosystem services provided by Tucson, Arizona’s lower Sabino Creek. This analysis finds that lower Sabino Creek provides the local economy with $1.4 million to $2.1 million in ecosystem service benefits each year. When measured like an asset with a life-span of 100 years with a three percent discount rate, lower Sabino Creek has a net asset value between $46 million and $81 million. With sufficient stewardship to maintain the health and function of Sabino Creek, this economic contribution will continue in perpetuity.
This report presents a discussion of the source water watersheds for Little Rock, Arkansas, and its environs: Lake Winona and Lake Maumelle Watersheds. This report includes a description of each watershed’s current health, threats to water quality, and the ecosystem services benefits that the watersheds provide. In addition, we provide estimates for the economic value of these natural capital assets. By shedding light on the importance of these watersheds to the economic health of the region, these estimates provide the foundation for better-informed decisions regarding watershed management activities.
The St. Louis River in northeastern Minnesota provides tremendous economic benefits to the stakeholders within its watershed. Its water and land are natural capital assets that produce ecosystem service benefits that include clean air and water, wildlife habitat, and natural food sources. Every year, the watershed's ecosystem services provide $5 billion to $14 billion in economic benefits. Despite mining activity in the river's headwaters and the Area of Concern at the river's mouth, the St. Louis River still provides significant economic inputs for the regional economy.
In collaboration with the USFS, Earth Economics presents a measurable framework for ecosystem goods and services, cultural services, and human well-being concepts. Cultural services often go unrecognized in land management and decision making for development plans, and thus risk degradation and loss. This report offers an approach to measure ecosystem services alongside cultural, social, and health benefits across the urban to rural gradient. The Green-Duwamish Watershed is highlighted to represent diverse land-use cases, from rural,indigenous groups to South Seattle's urban city dwellers.
This report presents the results of the first ever open space valuation of Western Washington’s Central Puget Sound region, including King, Kitsap, Pierce, and Snohomish counties. Ten open space services, comparable with ecosystem services, are valued for each of 15 land cover types. These services represent a substantial and critical component of the regional economy, contributing $11.4 to $25.2 billion per year.
The natural capital in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, provides a robust flow of essential economic goods and services benefits, including food, water, clean air, natural beauty, climatic stability, storm and flood protection, and recreation. Agricultural lands make up over 65% of the ecosystems in Lancaster County, which is the first county in the nation to reach 100,000 acres of preserved farmland. This analysis identified the natural capital from farmland preservation at $676 million in annual economic benefits. If treated like an asset, Lancaster County ecosystems value at $17.5 billion.
This report highlights the Long Island Sound Basin’s natural capital and provides an update to the 1992 Altobello valuation study. Fourteen ecosystem services across nine land cover types were valued, and total ecosystem services flows within the Basin were found to reach at least $17 billion to $37 billion every year. This report also includes recommendations to fill key gaps in primary valuation studies for Long Island Sound and to conduct assessments on the return on investment.
This ecosystem services valuation was the first comprehensive economic analysis of the entire Colorado River Basin, a 249,000 square mile region spanning across mountains, plateaus, and low-lying valleys of the American Southwest. Colorado River Basin ecosystems provide a suite of ecosystem services that includes water supply, flood risk reduction, and recreation. The analysis highlighted the importance of engaging water utilities stakeholders, as the Basin's ecosystems provide between $56.5 billion and $466.5 billion in economic benefits every year.
This analysis quantified the economic, environmental, and social impacts of the William A. Grant Water & Environmental Center (WEC) at Walla Walla Community College. Since opening in 2007, the WEC has had an $88 million economic and environmental impact, and shows a $3 return for every $1 invested. This study helped secure continued government funding for the Center.
This report examines the growing risks and rising costs of climate change across the United States. Hurricanes, floods, and extreme weather events have high human and financial tolls. This report calls for increased efficiency and effectiveness in natural hazard management through proactive investments and a focus on green infrastructure for risk reduction. The report also identifies seven areas of federal and state law in need of improvement.
Pacific County’s nearshore ecosystems are valued at approximately $313 million to $3.1 billion dollars per year. This report offers recommendations for the preservation of ecosystems that contribute tangibly to the local economy. Furthermore, the report is aimed to support public and county decision-makers in understanding the economic context of project planning, policy choices, and other requirements particular to shoreline ecosystems and critical areas throughout the county.
This economic analysis estimates the value of the ecosystem services provided by natural assets in Pacific County’s nearshore environment. Pacific County’s nearshore ecosystems value at approximately $985 million to $4.4 billion dollars per year. Recommendations are offered for the preservation of ecosystems that contribute tangibly to the local economy. This report aims to support public and county decision-makers in understanding the economic context of project planning, policy choices and other requirements particular to shoreline ecosystems and critical areas throughout the county.
This first-ever regional economic valuation demonstrates how natural capital and its benefits directly support Santa Clara County’s economic health and overall well-being. Nature in Santa Clara County, home to Silicon Valley, provides benefits valued at $1.6 to $3.9 billion annually. These benefits include clean air, water supply and quality, reduced fire and flood risk, wildlife habitat, pollination, healthy food and recreation. The asset value of Santa Clara County’s natural capital is estimated between $162 and $386 billion.
This report presents a framework for scientists, academic institutions, and land stewards to integrate existing biophysical models within a single modeling platform to enable better decisions concerning land use planning, salmon restoration, storm water projects, forestry practices, and flood risk reduction. The Multi-scale Integrated Models of Ecosystem Services (MIMES) demonstrates how current demographic and ecological trends place immense pressure on the natural environment, with significant economic implications. MIMES is the first platform to integrate existing local, national, and global models to systemically answer questions related to sea-level rise, flood risk, and restoration needs.
This report presents a technical valuation of the damages from dumping accumulated dam sediments in the Anchicaya River on Colombia's Pacific Coast. The unplanned discharge of more than 500,000 cubic meters of sludge in 2001 resulted in shocks to vulnerable ecosystems, severe damage to fish and shellfish, and harm to water supply, crops, and riverine and coastal mangroves. Earth Economics partnered with Fundacion Neotropica to conduct an economic valuation of the damages, emphasizing ecosystem connectivity and both market and non-market environmental impacts.
The Mississippi River Delta is a vast national economic asset that is being squandered at tremendous cost. Over the last 80 years, the Delta has lost over 1.2 million acres of land, and the coastline has retreated by as much as 30 miles. Yet, this area is well worth the investment for restoration. This report presents the most comprehensive measure of the economic value of the Mississippi River Delta’s natural systems to date, demonstrating that the area’s ecosystems provide at least $12 to $47 billion in benefits to people each year. If this natural capital is treated as an economic asset, the Delta’s minimum asset value is $330 billion to $1.3 trillion. This study also examines the dynamic physical changes affecting the Delta region, outlines the economic implications of those changes, and compares three investment/restoration scenarios for the region.
To view a full list of Earth Economics' publications since 1999, please visit our Publications Archive.