VALUING FOREST ECOSYSTEM SERVICES IN MARYLAND AND SUGGESTING FAIR PAYMENT USING THE PRINCIPLES OF SYSTEMS ECOLOGY
Campbell, Elliott Thomas
Tilley, David R
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Forests provide a multitude of vital benefits to the ecosystems, economies and people of Maryland. Forests regulate atmospheric gas exchange, ameliorate micro-climates, stabilize coastlines and riverbanks, provide wildlife habitat, generate and maintain soils, improve water quality, dampen storm flows, abate air pollution, and provide food, fiber, fuel and shelter. While markets exist to set the price for an economic good like timber, many of the ecosystem services listed above are poorly valued, if at all. This research provides a connection between biophysical and economic methods for evaluating the environment. The hydrology, soil, carbon, air pollution, pollination and biodiversity of a forest are measured from a biophysical standpoint with emergy and converted to dollars using new emergy-to-dollar ratios; termed eco-prices. The functioning of the forest is compared to the most likely alternative land-use (suburbia) and biophysical value is assigned based on this difference. The novel method for assigning value to ecosystem services and the ability to link biophysical evaluation and economic valuation has the potential to be influential in how ecosystem services are incorporated into the economy and used to guide decision making in the future. This research seeks to value ecosystem services provided by forests in Maryland and proposes that an Ecological Investment Corporation (EIC) could be an additional tool for society to direct payments from consumers to land stewards to encourage the production of ecosystem services. To ensure that Maryland forests continue to produce ecosystem services at the current rate, land stewards should receive compensation between $178 and $744 million. On a per capita basis, a resident of Maryland enjoys $850 worth of ecosystem services from the forest as public value. On an area basis, the typical acre of forest in Maryland generates over $2000 of ecosystem services as public value. Based on our compensation estimates for ecosystem services, a land steward should receive a fair payment price of $71 to $298 per year per a typical acre of forest. This research is a step forward for emergy science, providing novel methods for quantifying ecosystem services, calculating ecological debt, and converting renewable emergy flows to dollars.