A Valuable Resource

Although wetlands provide important benefits known as ecosystem services, wetland management programs must compete with many other important issues for attention and funding from local stakeholders and decision-makers. Economic studies are often conducted to relay the value of services and resources provided by natural systems in dollar amounts. This was done in the 2011 report prepared for the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary called Economic Value of the Delaware Estuary Watershed. This study identified a potential loss of $19.9 million in carbon storage, $9.67 million in water purification benefits, and $47,600- $301,000 in coastal storm protection due to sea level rise over a 15 year time span. 
In early 2016, DNREC's Delaware Coastal Programs conducted a survey to evaluate public interest in the preservation, restoration, and management of ecosystem services provided by tidal wetlands throughout the state. The survey asked about recreational activity, prior knowledge of wetland benefits, and willingness to pay for these benefits.
  • 68% of survey respondents recreated within or in view of tidal wetlands in 2015. 
  • The recreation types with the greatest total number of estimated recreation days were walking/hiking, birdwatching, and fishing/shellfish harvesting. 
  • In 2015, Delaware residents spent an estimated $38 million on fishing, $15 million on wildlife viewing, and $9 million on hunting within view of tidal wetlands.
  • Respondents were more familiar with the benefits wetlands provide associated with scenery/aesthetics, recreation, and ecological health and diversity. Respondents were least aware of commercial resource benefits, influence on climate/carbon storage, and water quality improvement.
  • Households are willing to pay $58 million per year to ensure no net loss of wetlands and benefits from today.
  • Tidal wetland management scenarios have broad appeal regardless of income, age, and proximity to wetlands.
2017 survey showed how important education can be in determining perceptions of the natural environment. Survey respondents were asked how they feel about living near wetlands before and after being presented with a number of wetland facts that highlight their benefits to humans and the environment. Positive perception of wetlands increased by nearly 20% after learning the facts, as can be seen in the pie charts below, while negative perception decreased by more than 8%. There are a number of educational resources available through DNREC for the general public and for use in classrooms.
Wetland Perceptions Where You Live
Wetland Perceptions Knowing the Facts
Are we speaking another language? Try the Wetlands Glossary.

Page reviewed 1/7/19