AWRI Online Newsletter #74: April 2008

When the average resident of West Michigan thinks about the natural land in the region, they might think it has no value.

They would be wrong-by at least $1.7 billion.

That's the minimum total value associated with green infrastructure in the seven-county West Michigan region. The total--representing some, but not all acreage in the region--was carefully estimated using a new tool called INVEST: INtegrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services Tool. The tool is available online for government planners and citizens to view:

Led by researchers at AWRI and Seidman College of Business at Grand Valley State University, along with colleagues at Michigan State University, the tool was developed in cooperation with the West Michigan Strategic Alliance (WMSA) as part of its Green Infrastructure Initiative. People and Land and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation provided funding for the project.

INVEST allows users to see that there are dollar values associated with environmental assets. The estimates can be viewed at the regional or county level for different types of land use, including croplands and orchards, forest and prairie, water and wetlands, or dunes and beaches. Economic values were determined for these land uses by considering the benefits they provide to the human population, which include: producing food, supplying raw materials, providing fish and wildlife habitat, controlling erosion, assimilating waste, filtering and supplying water, cycling nutrients, and providing aesthetic and recreational value. The online tool lets users see the details of how each value was estimated, along with a relative confidence level for each estimate.

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