Howe Sound’s watersheds provide an estimated $800 million to $4.7 billion in natural services to the region each year, according to a report released by the David Suzuki Foundation. The report, Sound Investment: Measuring the Return on Howe Sound’s Ecosystem Assets, shows an astounding trove of unrecognized — and undervalued — natural wealth in the Howe Sound region of B.C., comparable to industries such as mining and quarrying, which contributed $3.38 billion to B.C.’s industrial GDP in 2011.
The report estimates values for 11 of nature’s ecosystem services, including stabilizing climate, protecting communities from natural disasters and offering places for recreation and spending time in nature. The highest valued services were tourism and recreation (valued at a maximum of $304,000/hectare/year) and storm prevention (valued at a maximum of $84,000/hectare/year), a particularly important service in the face of climate change.
Many have noted the remarkable marine revival we’ve seen in the sound following decades of clean-up efforts to address the legacy of industrial pollution. The report found that the highest valued ecosystems are all near-shore environments (beaches, wetlands, and eelgrass beds). However, several industrial proposals, including a liquefied natural gas project, plan to site their operations on these near-shore ecosystems.
The report makes a compelling case that industrial resurgence and nature recovery in Howe Sound should be considered together, not in the current piecemeal approach that may be setting them on a collision course.