A University of Georgia researcher has found that Georgia’s forestlands provide essential ecosystem services to the state worth an estimated $37 billion annually.

This is in addition to the value of timber, forest products and recreation. This is the first time these indirect benefits of Georgia’s private forests have been estimated.

Rebecca Moore, an assistant professor in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, studied the 22 million acres of privately-owned forestland in Georgia to estimate the benefits of water filtration, carbon storage, wildlife habitat and aesthetics.

“People value these things,” Moore said, “but because they aren’t like other goods in that people don’t go out and buy them, it’s difficult to estimate just how much we value them. The purpose of our research was to do just that — estimate the value of the ecosystem services provided by private forests in Georgia.”

Moore’s study was conducted with funding from the Georgia Forestry Foundation. The findings of her study were announced at the state capitol on Feb. 9.

“We have had studies for some time that tell us what the economic benefit of wood and fiber manufacturing in the state is,” said Steve McWilliams, executive director of the Georgia Forestry Foundation. “This new study allows us to place a dollar value on those services we receive from the standing forests, and they are many.”

Moore’s final report, which can be found at http://www.warnell.uga.edu/news/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Final-Report-1-24-11.pdf, focused on six types of ecosystem services forests provide: gas and climate regulation; water quantity and quality; soil formation and stability; pollination; wildlife habitats; and aesthetic, cultural and passive use.