Economic Value of America’s Estuaries
As sea level rise effects more American communities, the role of estuaries to protect property and sequester carbon is more important than ever. As a follow up to the 2008 report, Restore America’s Estuaries (RAE) released a timely update to its Economic Value of Estuaries report, assigning a dollar amount to the role coastal wetlands play as natural infrastructure in protecting coastal communities, industries, and infrastructure. Additionally, the report highlights estuaries as blue carbon ecosystems that play a role in sequestering carbon to mitigate climate change. As wetland loss continues due to development and as climate change increasingly threatens coastal communities with more intense and regular storms, this report aims to provide an understanding of the value of estuary regions and the critical need to invest in natural infrastructure.
While estuaries comprise only 4% of continental US land, over 40% of Americans reside in coastal regions, including eight of the ten largest metropolitan areas. Additionally, 47% of the U.S. GDP comes from estuary regions, emphasizing the importance of quantifying coastal resilience in the face of 21st century challenges. Sectors directly connected to the oceans and Great Lakes provided 3.1 million jobs and contributed $301.9 billion to the U.S. economy in 2018. Much of this employment requires healthy ecosystems to continue to foster recreation and tourism.
A key update since the 2008 report is the valuation of natural infrastructure to protect property and blue carbon ecosystems to sequester carbon as an ecosystem service in addition to the monetary value they provide regions in terms of GDP and employment. The report includes region-specific case studies examining the importance of natural infrastructure in the local economies listed below:
Great Egg Harbor, NJ; Pamlico Sound, NC; Tampa Bay, FL; Terrebonne Basin, LA; San Pablo Bay, CA; Snohomish Estuary, WA