Valuing ecosystem services from wetlands restoration in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley
This study assesses the value of restoring forested wetlands via the U.S. government's Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley by quantifying and monetizing ecosystem services. The three focal services are greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation, nitrogen mitigation, and waterfowl recreation. Site- and region-level measurements of these ecosystem services are combined with process models to quantify their production on agricultural land, which serves as the baseline, and on restored wetlands. We adjust and transform these measures into per-hectare, valuation-ready units and monetize them with prices from emerging ecosystem markets and the environmental economics literature. By valuing three of the many ecosystem services produced, we generate lower bound estimates for the total ecosystem value of the wetlands restoration. Social welfare value is found to be between $1435 and $1486/ha/year, with GHG mitigation valued in the range of $171 to $222, nitrogen mitigation at $1248, and waterfowl recreation at $16. Limited to existing markets, the estimate for annual market value is merely $70/ha, but when fully accounting for potential markets, this estimate rises to $1035/ha. The estimated social value surpasses the public expenditure or social cost of wetlands restoration in only 1Â year, indicating that the return on public investment is very attractive for the WRP. Moreover, the potential market value is substantially greater than landowner opportunity costs, showing that payments to private landowners to restore wetlands could also be profitable for individual landowners.
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