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Wetland Restoration Creates Jobs, and Provides Ecological, Economic, and Social Benefits

Urban development is an essential process for United States as our population increases and communities grow. The coastline in particular draws us with it’s aesthetic beauty and the economic potential created by bodies of water. We have a curious desire for waterfront property, and we are willing to pay top dollar for it. Coastlines can create vibrant and profitable communities – the San Francisco Bay Area is a perfect example.

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Wetlands provide extremely important ecological and economic benefits, a fact more people are beginning to recognize.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Nicholas A. Tonelli.

Yet coastal urban development comes at a price that we are just now beginning to understand. Our coastlines are lined with wetlands, beautiful expanses of uniquely adapted plants and animals that play a vital ecological role. As the human population increases, the acreage of coastal wetlands decreases. A recent report has outlined how restoring our wetlands not only helps keep coastal ecosystems healthy, but also provides immense economic and social benefits for coastal communities. By investing money to protect and restore wetlands, we can create jobs and better help protect our own cities.

Kidneys of watersheds

The term wetlands encompasses everything we think of as a swamp, marsh, or bog. In the past we’ve regarded these muddy areas as wastelands, little more than a nuisance for urban development. Now we recognize how vitally important wetlands are for us. Wetlands efficiently filter water moving from land to sea, keeping it clean of pollutants and sediment, and improving overall water quality. This characteristic has earned them recognition as the kidneys of our coastal watersheds. They help keep coastal communities safe, acting as storm buffers and helping stabilize shorelines and control flooding. With our weather patterns increasing in frequency and intensity, we certainly need all the extra protection we can get!

Wetlands are also among the most biologically diverse ecosystems on the planet. They are home to a wide range of uniquely adapted plants and animals. Many commercially and recreationally important fish species spend their juvenile stages in wetlands, protected from large predators in the open ocean.

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Coastal wetlands act as nurseries for juvenile fish, protecting the longevity of nearby fisheries.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Kelly Fike/USFWS.

There is an important number to take notice of – 80,000. That’s the number of acres of wetlands that is eaten up by coastal development every year; the equivalent of seven football fields is disappearing every hour of every day. This is despite federal policy, put in place in 1989, that mandates there will be no net loss of wetlands in the United States. Even with federal policy in place, we are not acting to conserve our wetlands. Eighty thousand acres every year is a colossal net loss and shows that our system is suffering a massive failure in protecting these vital places.

A case for protecting wetlands

Just last month, a report was released by the Center for American Progress. Titled “The Economic Case for Restoring Coastal Ecosystems”, this report outlined the monetary value of Americans investing money in restoring wetlands. The results are astounding – for every $1 million invested in coastal restoration, 17.1 jobs were created on average. Each dollar invested returned more than $15 in net economic benefits. The factors examined were not just environmental, but also economic and social. They considered the benefits posed by buffering against storm surges, safeguarding coastal communities, soaking up carbon and other pollutants, creating nursery habitat for fish, and restoring open space that support recreation, tourism, and culture of coastal communities.

This report reveals the enormous gain from investing in coastal restoration. The lifetime benefits of a restored ecosystem are a powerful argument, and the purpose of the report is to influence resource managers. Not only should we focus on restoring wetlands, but we must establish a management system that will ensure the restored wetlands remain protected for the foreseeable future. These wetlands will continue to sustain jobs, maintain biodiversity, and protect our coastal communities, as long as we understand how to best conserve them.

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For every $1 we invest in restoring wetlands, an average of $15 in benefits is returned.
Image courtesy of Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection via Flickr.

By protecting and conserving the unique ecological places in our country, we are allowing our coastal communities to grow their economic potential. It is much to our profit for us to work towards harmony with nature. When we find the balance between taking from the environment and protecting it, we achieve an optimal system of profit vs. cost. When the investment we put into a project returns to us at least 15 fold, it is certain that it is a good investment. It is our hope that this report, along with growing recognition of the importance of wetlands, will persuade resource managers to take action to protect and restore our wetlands – and soon.

Beautiful and functional

A healthy wetland is beautiful, functional, and vibrant with life. Not only do they better protect us with storm-buffering and water-filtering capabilities, but they also protect our food supply and offer us gorgeous scenery. It is our responsibility to preserve these ecologically and economically important stretches of coastline. And with the cost-vs-benefit ratio demonstrated by this report, it is to our advantage to make certain restoration occurs. Help us support healthy ecosystems by buying your seafood from distributors that are committed to protecting the environment, such as Pucci Foods.

 

7 thoughts on “Wetland Restoration Creates Jobs, and Provides Ecological, Economic, and Social Benefits

  1. It makes me happy to read articles such as this. I’ve been concerned for our lands quite some time now. I know humans will continue to change the world for themselves, and inhabit places like these wet lands. The fact that we can make that into any bit of a good thing is amazing. You have to wonder, though – if just leaving the wet lands alone would be better. Maybe they are just saying they are protecting the environment, but it would be better off without us messing with it.

  2. I’m so glad to see that the wetlands are finally being restored so that the natural beauty and ecological balance can be restored to its once beautiful state. These efforts will have a significant impact on wildlife as well as the food industry as a whole. By monitoring the species that live in these areas, we can be sure that human consumption isn’t getting out of hand and that our species will remain viable for many years to come.

    In addition, the work that is being done will help to combat the dangerous effects of our lives. I do think that we will be able to stem the tide of years of abuse if we are willing to continue to put forth efforts such as these.

  3. I am glad that people are starting to realize the value of wetlands. Too long have people only looked at the short term aspect of building and development, destroying these habitats and wildlife communities. I had no idea that wetland restoration could be so lucrative, but I am very glad that people are starting to take charge and preserve one of the most quickly-depleting wildlife reserves we have. Hopefully this trend continues into the long term and we don’t have any fall-back to development and no restoration.

  4. I learned so much about wetland restoration and the various benefits it can have on both the environment plus society as a whole. They are some of the most biologically diverse ecosystems with many different species of plants and animals. Over 80,000 acres of wetlands are destroyed by coastal development every year so they need to be protected. I believe that restoring the wetlands will result in economic and social gains because it will increase tourism while keeping the environment cleaner. If we look at the costs and benefits of restoration, then there is no question that is is the right choice to make.

  5. This is a prime example where business profits and protecting the environment can mutually coexist. Companies always make the argument that having safeguards to protect the environment eats into their profits and causes more harm. However it looks like Pucci Foods stands as a testament to better business as it is socially conscious and able to generate net revenue in its business operations.

    The wetlands like our other natural resources are limited and unable to sustain itself with the amount of acres that are consumed on a day to day basis. We can’t let all these efforts rest solely on one academic report and the good doing of a few companies. As a society, we need to ensure that the rest of the country knows about these issues.

    Marshes and bogs are a cultural American symbol. How will the future generations read about our history traversing through swamps or Tom Sawyer and his adventures without these wetlands here? Besides that, think about the ecological benefits. The diverse species that exist in these areas will cease to be. This can have profound effects up the ladder and we may see the loss of predators such as alligators and crocodiles.

    No swamps or alligators? Where would our identity be then?

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