Aquatic Ecosystems: The Economic Importance of Two Watersheds - Ecological Goods and Services and Natural Capital

Aquatic Ecosystems: The Economic Importance of Two Watersheds - Ecological Goods and Services and Natural Capital

Natural capital incompasses all living organisms, land masses, and atmospheric nescesites humans need in any biosyphere that provide ecological goods and services. Basically the idea of this is that it is beneficial for us as a population to incorporate our natural resources into usable renewable assests rather than extracting resources or implementing other means of getting our nessecities such as water, air, and land. Making our land masses and resources

“Without nature, humans could not survive. Nature provides the raw materials for every product we consume. More importantly, it constantly supplies services that sustain life, such as fresh drinking water, food and clean air. Nature directly affects human wellbeing by meeting a wide variety of human needs, whether from tangible ecological services or from more abstract connections to nature. Unfortunately, current accounting systems rarely, if ever, account for nature. In fact, we often assume nature provides unlimited resources. We act as if the bank of nature has unlimited resources, and we keep making withdrawals as if there is no tomorrow.”

Ecological goods and services are a unique way of making our elements usable and keep our ecosystems thriving and natural. Plant and animal biodiversity and air and water purification are important in any watershed and it is important in a largely urban environment like the area of southern Ontario to keep all land masses and water ways usable aswell as naturalistic.

Purpose of Watershed Study in the Credit River Watershed

This report was written to outline the purpose and findings of the study conducted in the Credit River Watershed. This study was created to evaluate the natural capital and ecological goods and services inside this area. Also to educate about the importance of incorporating responsible land-use decisions in this area. The Credit River Watershed is a relitivly urban watershed considering the population that it serves.
“The purpose of this report is to conduct an initial baseline estimate of the flow of benefits provided to residents of the Credit River Watershed from the existing stock of natural capital in the region. Further, this report assesses the changing flow of benefits from natural capital through a scenario analysis to provide insight into how future land-use trends in the watershed affect natural capital estimates. More specifically, this report has the following objectives:
• to educate and build awareness of natural capital and ecological service values in the watershed
• to demonstrate the importance of considering changes in natural capital and ecological service values when making land-use decisions in the watershed.”

Introduction to the Credit River Watershed Initiatives

The Credit Valley Conservation project has been active since 1954 and continues to restore the natural process and features of this area of Southern Ontario. This watershed extends from the Niagara Escarpment and into Lake Ontario. Despite being largely urbanized this is still a major tributary for spawning salmon, trout and other species.
Changing the behaviours of residential and commercial endevours to promote the health of the community through “effective watershed management” is conducted and reported throughout this study. The watershed management study, or the “Intergrated Watershed Monitoring Program” combines local, regional, and global strategies and initiatives to improve the overall well-being of the Credit River Watershed. Although progress has been made the monitors of the program have discovered that changes still need to be made. The overall health of the land is of primary importance, but the people who work, live and play within this area need to be accomedated aswell. The message being portrayed through this study is that we need to find a way to make our natural resources benefical not only by extracting our resources for profit, but by implementing beneficial elements and infastructure to our ecosystem that we are dependent on.
“The Credit River Watershed is an important sub-component of the Great Lakes Basin and is home to roughly 750,000 people. The Credit River flows from its origins north of theTown of Orangeville to Lake Ontario at Port Credit in the City of Mississauga. Typical of other regions in southern Ontario, the Credit River Watershed has a growing urban population,which creates outward development pressure into what were once rural areas in order to meet demands for housing, recreation, food and material production, clean water, clean air, and waste treatment.”

Method of Study

In order to conduct this study the monitors of the program used a “natural capital valuation method”. This is otherwise known as “benefit transfers” they used a value system to estimate total value and beneficial services in a given land cover.
“Data requirements to assess all ecological services provided by natural capital are fairly intensive. For many services, primary studies simply have not been conducted, thereby limiting the data available to be transferred. Given limited data availability, the following decision rule was used for deciding which transfer method to use:
• Where a reasonably similar benefit estimate existed, unit values were used and adjusted
based on expert judgement.
• Where no reasonably similar benefit estimate existed, no value was transferred.”
The land cover in which they evaluated inside the Credit River Watershed (CRW) include, Upland Forest, Riparian Forest, Wetland, Water, Urban Forest, Meadows, Agricultural Territories. The ecological advancements and changes required in forest land and agricultural land covers include; atmospheric regulation, climate regulation, disturbance avoidance, water regulation, water supply, pollination, habitat, recreation. The ecological services in the wetland and water include; soil formation, nutrient cycles, waste treatment, biodiversity, water regulation and recreation.

The Mackenzie Watershed
This watershed is enormous compared to the Credit River Watershed, spanning over 1.7 million km. This wild landscape has natural resource capital assets throughout the entire land mass. Oil,timber,forests carbon and minerals are extracted at a substantial rate throughout the watershed. This area is covered by 63% forest land and holds a large number of species of birds,bears,fish, and all types of wildlife. Comparing this to the Credit River area is vastly different. . “The watershed includes the Mackenzie River, Canada’s longestriver at 4,241 kilometres, which carries one fifth of the country’s
freshwater and nutrients to the Arctic Ocean”.The Credit River Watershed is highly populated and has the threat of urbanization to deal with. The Mackenzie River Watershed is 1.7 million square feet of low populated wild landscape. With an average of 1 person per square kilometer the main threat here is the unmonitored extraction of natural resources and unused potential natural capital

Purpose of Study in the Mackenzie River Watershed
The main purpose of this study is to help account for the Natural Capital that we neglect to add in our national balance sheet (gross domestic product GDP). The GDP values the economic activity of things like oil,gas,minerals,soils, and harvests. However it does not account for the health of these resources as they become extracted at a high rate. It also does not account for the non-market benefactors to our population, such as clean air,water,land.

“The primary goals of the present study are to:
1) Compile a natural capital balance sheet of the existing state of Canada’s Mackenzie watershed Boreal region;
2) Provide economic estimates of the value of the Mackenzie watershed’s market-based and non-market ecosystem services;
3) Highlight the merits of taking a balanced approach to conservation, development and community health in the broader Mackenzie watershed; and
4) Appropriately reflect Aboriginal perspectives and community
values.”

The fact that our most important natural resources are not monitored for their overall well being needs to be changed. Renewable and non-renewable should be available to be expressed in monetary measures. The cost of poplution from industrialization is not expressed in monetary terms either. Things like this should be monitored and taken into consideration.
“The study shows the importance and real socio-cultural-economic value of conserving natural capital, and balancing sustainable development with protecting intact ecosystems for future regional and national benefits. The value of protecting the integrity of watersheds is exemplified by the safe and clean drinking water.”
There are a vast amount of ecolocial services available in the Mackenzie River Watershed. Due to the size and different demographics of this landscape there are more services available than in the CRW, but some are quite similar. The services include :
-Atmospheric stabilization
- Climate Stabilization
- disturbance avoidance
- Water stabilization
- Water supply
-Erosion control and sediment retention
-Soil formation
-Nutrient Cycling
- Waste treatment
-Pollination
-Biological control
- Habitat
-Food production
-Raw materials
-Recreation

Findings of the Mackenzie River Watershed
Canada is known as one of the richest countries in the world when it comes to our Natural Capital. This study estimated that the capital was in the range of $570 Billion per year. This number is a potential estimate according to a fully functional, untouched landscape with the full range of all ecosystems. Not taking into consideration the industrialized development in that area.
“ This study provides estimates and perhaps more importantly, describes methods by which natural capital accounts can be developed on a regional scale. As the practice of natural capital accounting is in its infancy, our findings must be considered preliminary. Further work in this area is required to more fully describe natural capital values and to accurately track and measure changes in ecosystem values over time.”