Wetlands, rivers, and other natural habitats provide many valuable goods and services that benefit people and communities. Also known as ‘ecosystem services’, these benefits include clean and plentiful water, flood protection, biodiversity, fisheries production, recreational opportunities, and many others. Different types of habitats and landscape settings provide different suites of services. Collectively, these habitats and their services maintain all life on earth and form the ‘green infrastructure’ that supports our communities and quality of life. When natural habitats are damaged by impacts from development and pollution, their ability to provide ecosystem services declines, often resulting in harmful social and economic impacts.
The value of restoring degraded habitats has long been recognized in Massachusetts, but the effects of ecological restoration on the Commonwealth’s economy had not been quantitatively analyzed. To address this information gap, DER recently completed a two-phase study to evaluate and quantify the economic benefits of ecological restoration projects.
Phase one of the study examined the short-term economic output generated during project design and construction and found that DER projects typically produce a 75% return on investment and create or maintain 12.5 full-time-equivalent jobs for every $1 million spent. These results equal or exceed those for other capital projects such as road and bridge construction, and replacement of water infrastructure.
Phase two of the study estimated the long-term economic value of four selected ecosystem services improved by DER projects: flood protection, water quality, carbon sequestration, and landscape appeal. The findings show that improved ecosystem services can generate millions of dollars in economic value.
The combined results of this study demonstrate that investments in ecological restoration create jobs and stimulate economic activity from project design and construction while also generating substantial economic value by improving ecosystem services.
It should be noted that this study only quantifies a portion of the total economic value for any given project. That is because phase two of the study only evaluated single, example ecosystem service values (due to budget, timing, and methodology constraints). Because every project supported by DER restores multiple ecosystem services, each with its own economic benefits, the total value of all improved services for any given project will be much greater than the single-service examples analyzed in phase two of the study.
DER will continue to analyze the value of additional ecosystem services as time and resources allow, and will update this web page as new information becomes available. Reports from both phases of the recent study may be viewed and downloaded below.
Phase 1: Economic Impacts of Ecological Restoration in Massachusetts
Phase 2: Estimates of Ecosystem Service Values from Ecological Restoration Projects in Massachusetts
Ecosystem Services Report Summary file size 1MB
 For a good overview of ecosystem services with links to additional resources, see http://www.teebweb.org/resources/ecosystem-services/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecosystem_services.