Do you ever wonder how much clean water is worth? Or how much you would be willing to pay somebody not to pollute your favorite lake? Maybe you don’t think about these things, but businesses are emerging who do and that is exactly what ecosystem markets are all about. Ecosystem markets provide an innovative way to safeguard the goods and services we get from ecosystems. Through markets, interested parties can pay for landowners or managers to protect or restore ecosystems. For example, a sewage treatment plant might pay a third-party broker for nearby landowners to plant filter strips along waterbodies to reduce pollution or improve fish habitat. We are proud to announce that ecosystem markets maps are the latest addition to our EnviroAtlas web tool, thanks to a partnership between EPA, USDA’s Office of Environmental Markets, and Forest Trends’ Ecosystem Marketplace.
Ecosystem markets are appealing because they:
- protect the environment and provide a public good;
- offer additional revenue to America’s farmers and ranchers, and help protect agricultural
land from conversion;
- increase the flexibility of conservation or restoration efforts by reducing/redistributing costs;
- increase opportunities for investment;
- can be used to meet regulatory compliance or promote voluntary conservation; and
- accelerate conservation activities.
The most well-established markets in the United States are for wetland and stream conservation, water quality, forest carbon sequestration, and imperiled species and habitats conservation. These markets have grown in number and importance over the past few decades, but until now there hasn’t been one place where people could access all available data on where markets have been implemented. By integrating these data into EnviroAtlas, markets can be viewed in the context of other EnviroAtlas maps. People can easily see where markets have been implemented, learn more about those markets, and hopefully identify where to develop additional markets.
EnviroAtlas started with a simple idea: to provide a web tool that gives anyone with internet access the opportunity to explore a wealth of maps about the places where we live, work, and play. Adding ecosystem markets to EnviroAtlas helps fills a crucial information gap. Our next step is to work with our partners at USDA and Forest Trends to publish examples of how markets data can be used in different decision contexts.
About the Author: Anne Neale has been a research scientist in EPA’s Office of Research and Development since 1991. She has led the development of EnviroAtlas since shortly after its inception in 2007. She firmly believes that providing data to the public is important – data feeds information, information feeds knowledge, and knowledge feeds smart decisions!