Trees at work: economic accounting for forest ecosystem services in the U.S. SouthThis article contains other documents. View all titles contained within this article here.
Southern forests provide a variety of critical ecosystem services, from purification of water and air to recreational opportunities for millions of people. Because many of these services are public goods with no observable market value, they are not fully accounted for in land use and policy decisions. There have been several efforts to remedy this by estimating the total value of forests in different States, with each effort including different bundles of ecosystem services and using different valuation methodologies. In this guide, we propose a more consistent and theoretically sound approach to 1) quantifying annual flows of ecosystem services, 2) developing a spatial catalog of the marginal values of changes in those flows, and 3) accounting for the total value of ecosystem services lost or gained as a result of changes in forest ecosystems. Four chapters—on cultural services, watershed services, air quality and carbon, and provisioning of non-timber forest products—provide guidance on best practices for quantifying and estimating the values of these services as provided by forests. Expert panels were convened to write each chapter. The guide as a whole was developed with input from the Southern Group of State Foresters and stakeholder meetings held in 2014 and 2015.