Monday, April 27, 2009

News you can use - the economic value of our coasts

Every once in a while, I get asked why the federal government spends so much money doing "coastal restoration." I usually answer from the ecological perspective, but occasionally I manage to slip a dollar sign or two in there.

So today, when one of my professional colleagues sent me the stats below, I thought I might pass them on. This, in a non-scientific, non-ecological nutshell, is why coastal habitats, and their restoration and protection are so important:

  • Coastal areas are tremendous economic resources, generating more than 28 million jobs in the United States. Commercial and recreational fishing alone employs 1.5 million people and contribute $111 billion to the nation's economy. (EPA. National Coastal Condition Report II (2005))

  • U.S. estuaries produce more food per acre than the most productive farmland. Approximately 75 percent of commercial fish species depend on coastal areas for feeding, spawning grounds, and nursery areas. (Martin, D. M., T. Morton, T. Dobrzynski, & B. Valentine. (1996) Estuaries on the Edge: The Vital Link Between Land and Sea. A Report by American Oceans Campaign.)

  • U.S. coastal wetlands reduce the damaging effects of hurricanes and other storms on coastal communities, providing more than $23 billion in annual storm protection services in areas most vulnerable to hurricane and tropical storm surges. (Costanza, R. et al. (2008). The Value of Coastal Wetlands for Hurricane Protection. Ambio.)

So, the next time you are down on the coast - be it beach, bayou, marsh or rocky shoreline, ponder how that slice of perfection before you is contributing to both the human economic endeavour, and the ecological machine that underpins it. Oh, and be sure to take some trash home with you for proper disposal.

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