Tradeoffs May Be Trading Up
Protecting nature's services often involves tradeoffs among user groups and regions. Wetlands that purify water and handle stormwater runoff require substantial amounts of space, which can result in large tracts of land that cannot be developed. Setbacks from waterways and wetlands can prevent lucrative waterfront development. Preserving and managing forestland requires a multi- generational commitment in an economy based on quarterly earnings. These tradeoffs are a complex balancing act. Economic losses have to be weighed against the loss of biologic and ecosystem function. Protecting these functions can be a boon for communities.
In Tulsa, Oklahoma, many people enjoyed lower insurance rates after buildings were relocated outside the floodplain. Some property owners had to relocate homes and businesses for this to happen, but at least those properties won't be destroyed by floodwaters again. As New York City proceeds with protecting its watershed, rural New York residents may give up the opportunity for suburban-like development. Benefits from those tradeoffs go beyond the protection of drinking water supplies. By preserving open space and the rural character of the Catskill/Delaware watershed, opportunities for agriculture and forest-based businesses, like sustainably grown produce and ecotourism increase. Preserving our natural pollinators may lead to less pesticide use on foods and lawns. The tradeoff may be a little more insect damage on fruits and soccer fields. Odds are, however, that humans will perfect integrated pest management (IPM) strategies, making less pesticide use both practical and profitable.
Hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent to protect and restore the natural ecosystem services provided by forests, wetlands, microorganisms and insects. It will probably take billions more to permanently preserve high- quality ecosystem services. That price may be small compared with the cost of cleaning our water, air and soils using technological fixes. Humans will most certainly have to alter some behaviors to support and sustain high-quality natural ecosystems services. But, during the last century humans adapted to technology, so during this century the prospect of changing to accommodate needed natural services shouldn't be too daunting.
Next section: Pollination Services