Wetlands provide a range of valuable ecosystem services from water purification and nutrient retention to recreation and aesthetics. The value of these services is often difficult to quantify and document to policy makers and the general public. Economists have developed non-market approaches to address difficult issues related to valuation of the environment. This paper reviews recent literature on non-market valuation as applied to wetlands, with a particular focus on the value of urban wetlands. Wetland valuation studies have generated a wide range of values, in part due to differences in what is valued and in part due to differences in methodology. Several studies have shown that property owners value proximity to wetlands in urban areas. In addition, studies have found positive values for recreation (fishing and hunting), commercial fishing, water purification, and other ecosystem services provided by wetlands, although little of this work has been done on urban wetlands. Valuation studies can provide useful information about relative rankings of value, showing, for example, that certain types of wetlands or certain services are more highly valued than others. Whether the absolute magnitude of valuation estimates is correct is less clear.
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Vol. 24 • No. 4