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The Economic Benefits of Virginia's Natural Goods and Services

Virginia’s natural resources provide approximately $21.8 billion/year in ecosystem services. Of this, state and federal public lands provide $5.1 billion and the more than 700,000 acres of private land under conservation easement provide $520 million. The benefits are derived from a protection of water quality and supply, pollination of crops, forest products, farm products, disturbance prevention, habitat that supports the marine resource harvest and carbon sequestration.

Key Findings:

  • Water Quality: Forests, pastures and wetlands absorb excess nutrient runoff, toxins and sediments from transportation corridors, agricultural enterprises, and industrial sources, protecting drinking water supplies and marine resources and saving municipalities from making major capital expenditures in chemical or mechanical water treatment.
  • Total annual benefits: $5,200,000,000
  • Water Supply: Forests and wetlands slow runoff, minimize evaporation, and allow for high rates of ground water restoration. This process moderates flow during periods of drought and flood to provide a relatively consistent supply of water for consumption, electricity generation, industrial uses, and recreation compared to what would exist in their absence.
  • Total annual benefits: $980,000,000
  • Pollination: Farmers rely on both native pollinators and honeybees to pollinate crops. This study used an estimation of the proportion of pollination services provided by native insects for fifty-one fruits, nuts, field crops, and vegetables and the value of the crops produced because of it.
  • Total annual benefits: $27,000,000
  • Recreation: Forty-five percent of all overnight trips to Virginia include outdoor recreation, which results in $8 billion spent within the state. State and national parks are the largest draw, making up 48% of outdoor recreation visits.
  • Total annual benefits: $8,000,000,000
  • Forest Products: Virginia’s annual forest production amounts to 500 million cubic feet, of which saw logs comprise 45%, pulpwood 40%, and veneer logs, mulch, and other post-industrial products comprising the remainder.
  • Total annual benefits: $1,800,000,000
  • Farm Products: In 2007, 30,500 Virginia farms harvested 3.2 million acres of cropland or pasture. Total annual benefits: $2,300,000,000
  • Disturbance Prevention: Beaches and coastal wetlands protect coastal properties and infrastructure by absorbing storm surges, mitigating flooding and minimizing erosion.
  • Total annual benefits: $1,900,000,000
  • Habitat: Because of the difficulty in calculating the economic benefit of habitat, this study only estimated the contribution of wetlands to Virginia’s marine resource harvest.
  • Total annual benefits: $450,000,000
  • Carbon Sequestration: Virginia forests sequester a total of 42.8 million tons of CO2 equivalent annually. Sequestration rates of grass coverage and transitional parcels are only one third of one percent of that provided by forests. The value of carbon sequestered was calculated using a three-year average of prices on the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme
  • Total annual benefits: $1,100,000,000