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Treasures of the South

The true value of wetland forests

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Where Are Wetland Forests?

Stretching from the historic Chesapeake Bay, along the coastline of the Atlantic; across the Gulf into the mysterious bayou swamps of Louisiana; to eastern Texas and up the Mississippi, wetland forests are a valuable, yet vulnerable national treasure. Up to 80% of wetland forests in the South have disappeared.

Why Are Wetland Forests Important?

35 million acres of wetland forests (an area the size of New York) provide valuable ecosystem services for people living in the U.S. South, including:
Protection from extreme weather events
Recreation, tourism, and aesthetics
Water filtration and waste treatment
Food and pollination
Regulating services, including regional climate regulation
Raw materials, like timber

How Much Are Wetland Forests Worth?

Wetland forest ecosystem services are worth more than $500 billion. But wetland forests are under threat from logging and development. If we protected an additional 13 million acres of wetland forests and logged in a more ecologically friendly way, we could increase their ecosystem service value to almost $550 billion.

Standing southern wetland forests are worth over

$500 Billion

  • 25% Recreation, tourism, and aesthetics
  • 22.9% Water filtration and waste management
  • 0.3% Raw materials
  • 14.4% Food and pollination
  • 7.4% Regulating services
  • 29.9% Protection from extreme events

Logging Wetland Forests Is A Waste

The ecosystem service value of an intensively manage wetland forest is just $1,200 per acre. But wetland forests left alone are worth over $18,600 per acre. By shifting the focus of management from timber production to native ecosystem health, wetland forests increase in value over fifteen times.

Wetland Forests Reduce The Impacts Of Natural Disasters

Each year, hurricanes ravage the U.S. South. By the time recovery efforts are complete for 2017’s hurricanes Harvey and Irma, each are expected to cost over $100 billion in damages. Luckily, scientists have found that wetland forests quickly absorb and slow more water than pavement or lawns during floods.
Southern wetland forests are some of the most carbon rich ecosystems in the U.S.. Without this carbon storage, the impacts of climate change would be even more severe. Wetland forests also improve regional climate, because forests maintain a cooler temperature than non-forested landscapes.

Wetland Forests Cool The Region

The cost of 2017 hurricanes Harvey and Irma alone:

$100 BILLION

Wetland Forests Support Native Species

Fewer than 10% of wetland forests in the U.S. South are currently protected from logging, agriculture, and development. Wetland forests house many rare species, including the Louisiana black bear, hellbenders, and swallow-tailed kites. Some of the region was even designated a global biodiversity hotspot in 2016.
  • Wetland-dependent vertebrates locally extirpated between 2002 and 2011 in parts of the US South

  • Dusky gopher frog
    Extirpated from Alabama and Lousiana
  • American coot
    Extirpated from South Carolina
  • Northern myotis
    Extirpated from Mississippi
  • American bittern
    Extirpated from Kentucky
  • Wood stork
    Extirpated from Texas
  • Indiana Myotis
    Extirpated from Kentucky
  • Swallow-tailed kite
    Extirpated from Oklahoma
  • Glossy ibis
    Extirpated from Arkansas and South Carolina
  • American black duck
    Extirpated from Florida
  • River frog
    Extirpated from North Carolina
  • White-faced ibis
    Extirpated from Alabama

Wetland Forests: Where People Go To Play

In 2011, 25 million people in the U.S. South went out to observe nature and wildlife. Fifteen million people hunted or fished. These activities contributed $48 billion to the states’ economies. Wetland forests are an important ecosystem for hunters, fishers, boaters, and photographers to enjoy the outdoors.
The forest products industry is sensitive to booms and busts of the global economy. In just five years (2004-2009), the South lost 20% of forest product industry jobs, mostly due to automation. As the industry continues to decline, states could redirect those skilled workers to restoration, management, and ecotourism jobs.

Wetland Forests Are Part Of The Restoration Economy

25 Million People in U.S. observed nature in 2011

Southern Wetand Forests On The Global Stage

The U.S. South is among the most biodiverse areas on the planet. This immense biodiversity brings international visitors to our national parks. With dedicated conservation efforts, Southern wetland forests have the potential to draw more visitors and improve the economy.

Standing forests are the only proven terrestrial system that can store vast amounts of carbon at the scale necessary to keep global temperature rise below 1.5 oC. Protecting wetland forests ensures that carbon remains safely stored in the forest while removing more from the atmosphere each year.

Get involved today to help protect these valuable wetland forests.

Send a message to your governor Read the full report here