University of Vermont

University Communications

New York Times features study by UVM’s Gund Institute

Release Date: 05-22-2007

Author: Joshua E. Brown
Phone: 802/656-3039 Fax: (802) 656-3203

New Jersey may bring to mind dense cities, neon boardwalks, and jokes about the turnpike. But it also is known for the watery quiet of the Pine Barrens, fine beaches, and choice farmland.

In New Jersey, like elsewhere, conversion of open land for development has often been justified in economic terms: new jobs, more taxes. But what is the value—the economic value—of a bog, a salt marsh, or an urban park?

On May 21, 2007, the New York Times featured a new report by Robert Costanza and his colleagues at the University of Vermont’s Gund Institute for Ecological Economics that answers this question for New Jersey in precise terms.

In an article on the front page of the Metro section, Pam Belluck reports that the study, commissioned by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, puts dollar values onto different types of natural lands. Storm-slowing sand beaches cash in at over $42,000 per acre, freshwater wetlands at $11,568 per acre, and grasslands at $77 per acre.

Costanza and his collaborators, including UVM professors Austin Troy and Matthew Wilson, developed the report by analyzing numerous studies of wetlands and other land types and by calculating the cost of replacing their “ecosystem services”—like flood control, pollination and climate regulation—with human-made substitutes.

The new report is part of a larger effort by the Gund Institute to study and quantify “natural capital” across the planet with the goal of conserving important lands and waters through a recognition of the economic value of ecosystems.

To read the article, visit; the article is free, but may require a one-time sign-up for the New York Times online edition. To learn more about the Gund Institute.