As some of you may have noticed, I’ve been trying to post more regularly in the last few months. I posted 9 times in November, 5 in October and 10 in September. It’s quite tricky fitting in writing these posts with the rest of the day job, but I’ve been enjoying it and I hope you have too. Thanks to everyone who’s been reading and commenting. Comments are really appreciated – especially if you don’t agree with me!
I’m taking a long break over Christmas and the new year so you won’t be seeing too many more posts from me this year. IF something really interests me I might sneak into the office and write a bit though, every now and again.
Today the interim report of the Forestry Panel was published. Apart form having very little to say about the importance of open habitats such as grasslands within Forestry land, I was struck by a figure used in the Wildlife Trust‘s press release. The National Ecosystem Assessment “estimates the value of social and environmental benefits of woodland in the UK alone as £1.2 billion per annum.” But in the Guardian piece yesterday the social benefits of woodland were estimated at £1-£2 billions (not per annum). Another Guardian article published in June at the time the NEA was released suggested that improving the way greenspaces were managed could provide an extra £30billion a year.
Confused by all these figures I went back to the NEA Chapter 22 economic values to see if I could work out what they all meant. I found that the research on forestry benefits was done in 2002 and calculated the value at £1.02 (not 1.2) billion a year for Great Britain. For comparison the NEA estimated the value of inland wetlands at £1.5 billion a year. And the health benefits alone of living with a view of greenspace are calculated as worth £300 a year per person. Is that £300 per person for everyone in the UK, or just £300 for those people who have the view? I don’t know.
I have a problem with all these figures: the truth is £1 billion a year doesnt sound like very much to me from 3.1 million hectares of forested land or woodland in the UK (or on average £300 per hectare per year). After all the UK aggregates industry is worth nearly £5 billion a year from a much smaller area. Land prices for development land can be easily £250,000 per hectare.
As long as ecosystem service (and non-use or existence value) valuations are below development values, the economic argument will not be available to use to protect natural resources from development.