Water Quality

Economic Valuation of Wetlands for Water Quality Improvement

Palm trees stand at the distance of wetlands.

Wetlands are valued for their ability to remove excess nutrients, nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) from surface waters, helping to maintain and improve water quality. This ecosystem service has a direct economic benefit to people as wetlands, by filtering N and P, provide the same service as conventional wastewater treatment plants that are capital intensive.

The St. Johns River watershed, Florida, covers approximately 25,000 mi2 (64,750 km2), of which nearly 3,000 mi2 (7770 km2) are wetlands and other water bodies. We measure rates of N and P burial in soils among different wetland types of the St. Johns River. Using GIS, we scale our measurements—by wetland type—to the entire watershed—to estimate the total economic value of wetland N and P removal in the watershed.

These findings will provide insight into economic benefits of the different types of wetlands for water quality improvement, as well as help direct the location and type of future wetland restoration initiatives. This project is a collaborative effort with the University of North Florida and is funded by the St. Johns River Water Management District.