Case Studies

Economic Valuation of Bays and Watersheds

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The Sarasota Bay Estuary provides local residents and visitors with access to a variety of environmental resources. The management of these resources requires an understanding of how components of this ecosystem contribute to the well-being of residents and visitors. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2003) provides one such framework for assessing the complex connections between human societies and ecosystems. This framework begins by accounting for the structure and function of ecosystems. The ecosystem structure and function represent the components of ecosystems and the subsequent natural processes. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment connects the structure and function of ecosystems to human beings through ecosystem goods and services. Ecosystem goods and services represent those ways people directly and indirectly use ecosystems and ecosystem processes. This direct and indirect use of ecosystem services contributes to the well-being of society. As ecosystems degrade (improve), the services those ecosystems provide decline (increase), and human well-being diminishes (increases). Economists have a role in quantifying the connection between ecosystems and human well being. Economists have developed methods to estimate people’s value for the goods and services provided by ecosystems. These values provide policy makers and managers a tool that can be used in the planning and evaluation of management decisions.

The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program (SBEP) has contracted with Dr. Paul Hindsley, an assistant professor of Environmental Studies at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, to complete an economic value study of Sarasota Bay. The study, launching Summer 2012, will evaluate the economic benefits of the Sarasota Bay Estuary and its adjacent natural resources spanning Sarasota and Manatee County. The comprehensive analysis will focus on the direct and indirect use values of coastal recreation and coastal residential real estate.

A similar study conducted for the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program estimated the value of that water body to be 3.7 billion dollars. Here is more information on that study.

See an exhaustive list of factors contributing to the economic value of an estuary described by Restore America's Estuaries

Other economic value studies of water bodies:




Submitted by Paul Hindlsey, Eckerd College

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