Georgia's 22 million acres of private forestland provide society with non-timber benefits and services worth more than $37.6 billion every year, according to a 2011 study led by Dr. Rebecca Moore at the University of Georgia Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. "Quantifying the Value of Non-Timber Ecosystem Services from Georgia's Private Forests" reveals that private forests have value for everyone, not just forest landowners. The value of ecosystem services range from $264 to $13,442 per acre, depending upon forest characteristics.
What are Ecosystem Services?
Ecosystem services are the processes and outputs of nature that are of direct benefit to humans. The Millennium Assessment, a four-year United Nations-led assessment of the status and trends of the world's ecosystems, grouped ecosystems services into four broad categories:
- Provisioning Services
- The production of food, fiber, clean water, and other goods.
- Regulating Services
- Ecosystems regulate climate/temperature, the spread disease, and control rate, quality and output of water.
- Supporting Services
- Examples include new soil formation, carbon sequestration, nutrient and waste recycling, and pollination.
- Cultural Services
- The educational, aesthetic, cultural heritage values of ecosystems, including tourism and recreation.
Traditionally, most ecosystem services are considered free benefits to society. These public goods provide the basis for sustainable economies, communities, and livelihoods, but have no recognized economic value in the marketplace. Since these outputs are absent from society's balance sheet, the vital contributions of ecosystem services often go unrecognized in individual, corporate, and public decision making. When forests and other ecosystems are undervalued, they are more susceptible to development pressures and conversion to non-forest uses.
Over the past decade, many efforts have been made to place value on ecosystem services and to establish market-based incentives that reward landowners for maintaining and enhancing the ecosystem services that their forests provide to all of us.
Learn more about environmental markets
- Ecosystem Marketplace
- USDA Office of Environmental Markets
- The Bay Bank Conservation Marketplace
- National Water Quality Trading Program
- State of Pennsylvania Nutrient trading Program
More tools, resources, and publications about ecosystem services can be found here.
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