Introduction to: GTR-SRS-226This article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
Given the economic importance of wood products in the U.S. South, the value of southern forests as timberlands is well known and acknowledged in State policy decisions. However, timber represents only part of the value of forests, and forestry leaders are increasingly interested in quantifying the full value of the South’s forests, i.e., the value of all final ecosystem services produced by forests, including cultural (non-tangible) benefits, regulation of environmental quality, and provision of services (timber and non-timber goods). Recent efforts to quantify forest ecosystem services (FES) at the State level have considered different sub-sets of these services and employed different methodologies (Escobido and Timilsina 2012, Moore and others 2011, Paul 2011, H. Simpson and others 2013), which have limited the credibility of the results, the utility of cross-state comparisons, and the ability to report regional values. To address these issues, this guide describes best practices for quantifying four categories of FES (cultural services, regulation of water quantity and quality, regulation of air quality, and provisioning of non-timber goods) and a framework for estimating the total value of gains or losses due to changes in FES. While these four categories of services have been identified as the most important to stakeholders in the forestry sector in the Southern States, they are not comprehensive, e.g. pollination services are excluded here but discussed elsewhere (Iovanna 2017). In this introductory chapter, we explain the increasing interest in ecosystem services, discuss the motivations for valuation of FES in particular, and place this work in the context of economic accounting.