$107 billion annually.
Read that again. $107 billion. That is the economic benefit of the Chesapeake Bay, according to a study released yesterday by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
For those of us who have championed using nature’s economic value as another way — an additional way – to campaign for restoring and preserving ecosystems, the number is not surprising.
The truth is the highest use of nature, the one with the most economic value in the long-term, is often doing nothing.
Nature filters air and water. Nature provides defenses against damage from flooding and increasingly violent storms, including hurricanes. Nature helps prevent the erosion of that valuable beachfront property.
A few highlights of the report:
— Forests generated the largest values, because more than half (55 percent) of the watershed is forested and because the services they provide—filtering drinking water, reducing flooding, providing recreation and beauty—are highly valued.
— The current value of benefits construed by the Bay are about $107 billion annually. If the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, the plan to substantially reduce the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution that enters local waters and the Bay is implemented, that value increases by more than $22 billion to more than $130 billion. Isn’t that a wise use of our resources?
— Each of the states in the watershed will see substantially enhanced benefits. Virginia, more than $8.3 billion annually; Pennsylvania, $6.2 billion annually; and Maryland $4.6 billion annually. In all cases, forests generated the largest benefits, because more than half (55 percent) of the watershed is forested and because the services they provide—filtering drinking water, reducing flooding, providing recreation and beauty—are highly valued. Open water, however, had the largest percentage increase associated with implementing the Blueprint.
Restoring the Bay is particularly crucial to Norfolk and its suburban and rural neighbors, Virginia Beach and the Eastern Shore, because a healthy Bay ecosystem will help mitigate sea level rise.
My original story on the value of nature in National Wildlife is on my web site.