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Putting a Value on the Ecosystem Services Provided by Forests in Canada: Case Studies on Natural Capital and Conservation

March 23, 2017 |

This report was originally published on Nature Conservancy Canada


Effective conservation protects and restores nature for species, including people. Conserving natural ecosystems such as forests, wetlands and grasslands helps to protect important species and habitats and maintain essential ecological processes. Conservation also provides a benchmark to monitor future environmental change.

There has been increasing recognition of the importance of protected areas to the quality of human life (Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, 2008). In addition to conserving important habitats and species, protected areas provide important ecosystem goods and services, also known as natural capital services, such as:

  • water filtration
  • flood control
  • pollination
  • climate regulation

In the past, these ecological benefits provided by nature have been largely taken for granted. One of the challenges with traditional economic tools is that nature is often treated as an externality; a variable that cannot be accounted for. But in a world where we are losing species and ecosystems, it is ever more critical to include nature in economic decision-making. The emerging field of natural capital valuation – which places a financial value on ecosystem goods and services – provides a framework for assigning economic values to these services.

The valuation of nature provides an opportunity to link conservation and economics. The important role of ecosystem goods and services in conservation has also been recognized in Canada’s biodiversity goals and targets for 2020 (Government of Canada, 2015). By valuing the goods and services that nature provides, we can improve our understanding of the impacts of habitat loss and land conservation not only to nature, but to our economy and well-being. This provides decision-makers with valuable tools to support better conservation and sustainable development.

This report focusses on properties conserved by the Conservancy through the TD Forests program to calculate the natural capital value of forests. The report includes two main parts:

  1. The first part provides general background on Canada’s forests and approaches to natural capital valuation.
  2. The second part presents case studies for each of Canada’s eight forest regions. Each study provides an introduction to the forest region and explores the natural capital value of at least one conserved forest property.

Approach and key findings

Analysis of the natural capital value of the protected areas was undertaken using the defensive expenditures approach. Monetary valuation of the benefits used the latest Environment and Climate Change Canada values of the Social Cost of Carbon. Further details are provided in the technical notes (page 34).

Reflecting the diversity of forest types, densities and geographic features, a relatively broad range of natural capital values were calculated. The case study properties provide services valued at between $5,800 to $46,000 per hectare, per year in natural capital benefits, with an average benefit of $26,382 per hectare per year.

The specific valuation depends on the type of forest and where it is located. For example, the ecological services of the maple-dominated forests of the Conservancy’s Kenauk property in the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence forest region of Quebec is valued at approximately $20,000 per hectare per year. The lowland boreal forests in eastern Manitoba on the Kurian property have an annual value of $26,800 per hectare, and demonstrate the importance of peatlands in storing and holding carbon. The big trees of the Gullchucks Estuary property in BC’s coastal forest region provide over $33,000 per hectare of ecological services each year…”

Read on and access the report at: Nature Conservancy Canada.

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