Pricing the priceless
Why saving a forest makes good economic sense
TD Bank Group (TD) and the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) have released a new report that assigns an economic value to the real ecological goods and services that forests provide to Canadians.
The report’s findings are based on case studies of NCC conservation lands located in Canada’s eight different forest regions.
The report, which can be viewed here natureconservancy.ca/naturalcapitalreport2017, uses new economic tools to assign an annual dollar value, per hectare, to the natural benefits of forests.
On the lands examined in each province, the minimum value of the services provided by forests averages about $26,000 per hectare, per year. Remove a forest and those costs are paid by society — by local communities and individuals.
The report’s authors say that they hope their research will help governments and communities make better decisions about land use, conservation, climate change and sustainable development.
Their effort puts a representative price on the natural capital of forests. Natural capital is the measure of all the services that nature provides to us — services we often take for granted. The report’s figures are based on the forests’ ability to:
- Absorb and store atmospheric carbon dioxide;
- Clean our drinking water;
- Filter the air we breathe, and;
- Retain water, thereby preventing floods.
Forests located in wetlands received an even higher value as they store more carbon in peat and often play a bigger role in storing and cleaning water.
One of two Ontario sites included in the report is the 596 hectare Crane River property on the Bruce Peninsula. Dominated by softwood forests, it, and by extension the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence forest region, provides an important carbon sink; an important role in the battle against global climate change. This property is also important for air purification benefits, as well as the flood control provided by wetlands on the property. Forested watersheds are also important for maintaining water quality and quantity in the Crane River.
Over 90 per cent of the property is forested with mature eastern white cedar, red pine, white spruce and Jack pine, along with white birch, trembling aspen and red maple. The rare dwarf lake iris and Massassauga rattlesnake can be found on the property. The Crane River property builds on a network of protected areas, including Bruce Peninsula National Park. The property is part of a wildlife corridor that is important for the survival of the American black bear and fisher.
The Bruce Peninsula’s bear population, which has become genetically distinct, requires large, connected habitats for long-term survival.
In addition to ecological services, forests provide a wide range of additional benefits, such as opportunities for recreation and the conservation of biodiversity, and serve as culturally important places. Although it is difficult to assign dollar values for many of these, the report says their importance should not be underestimated and speaks to the even greater value of Canada’s forests.
“We hope that this analysis sparks an important conversation, inspires both the private and public sectors to explore collaborative approaches to conservation, assesses the values of Canada’s forests from a natural capital perspective and continues to explore the myriad ways in which forests matter to all Canadians,” said Dan Kraus, Weston conservation scientist with the Nature Conservancy of Canada. “This is an excellent model of how we can work together to protect Canada’s most important natural spaces and create a sustainable future for our children.”
“This report on the natural capital values of forests is part of a growing body of research that shows the important values of forests to human health, municipal infrastructure and as a key strategy in climate change mitigation and adaptation,” said Brian DePratto with TD Economics. “Fully accounting for the services provided by forests to Canada and Canadians will inform decision-making on both conservation and sustainable development, and help to ensure that the value of this natural capital is inherited by future generations.”
People are invited to join a Facebook Live session with the paper’s co-authors, Dan Kraus and Brian DePratto, on Thursday, March 23, 2017, at facebook.com/natureconservancy.ca.
The eight forest regions examined in the TD-NCC report were:
- Boreal Forest Region (SK, MB, NL);
- Coastal Forest Region (BC);
- Carolinian Forest Region (ON);
- Columbia Forest Region (BC);
- Great Lakes – St. Lawrence Forest Region (MB, ON, QC and NB);
- Acadian Forest Region (NB, NS, PEI);
- Montane Forest Region (AB and BC);
- Subalpine Forest Region (BC);
- Most of the forested properties included in this report have been secured through a collaboration between TD and NCC to conserve high-priority forests across Canada. The TD Forests program resulted in the conservation of over 16,000 hectares in 25 projects. In addition to the important biodiversity values provided by these sites, including habitat for species at risk and corridors for wide-ranging mammals, these properties also provide ecological services to Canadians and their communities. The projects can be viewed at natureconservancy.ca/en/what-we-do/forest-conservation/
- More than one-third of Canada`s land base is covered with trees. Canada has nine per cent of the world’s forests and ranks third for total forest cover (behind Brazil and Russia). Canada also has some the largest areas of intact forest left on Earth.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada is the nation's leading private, not-for-profit land conservation organization, protecting vital natural areas and the species they sustain. Since 1962, NCC and its partners have helped protect more than 1.1 million hectares, coast to coast.
TD Bank Group’s five-year contribution is the largest corporate commitment to NCC in the conservation organization’s more than 50-year history. With support from the TD Forests program, NCC will increase the amount of forested lands protected and cared for across Canada.
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