MUCH IS A WETLAND WORTH?
you pay $3 to have an eastern narrow-mouthed toad for a pet? How about
$20 for a barking treefrog? Thats how much these species cost
in the commercial pet trade. Prices may vary depending on geographic
location and current availability of a species, but these are the numbers
that were used in a scientific paper that attempts to place a monetary
value on natural wetlands.
of wetland value based on amphibian abundance and what people will pay
for them was conducted by Brett DeGregorio and colleagues at the University
of Georgias Savannah River Ecology Lab in South Carolina. The
paper, titled Commercial Value of Amphibians Produced from an
Isolated Wetland, appeared in the prestigious scientific journal
The American Midland Naturalist published by the University of Notre
Dame. The studys stated objective was to use the commercial
value of amphibians to estimate the value of a single isolated wetland
based on the number of amphibians it supports and produces annually.
This is the first study to assign an economic value to a wetland based
on the commercial value of the animals that inhabit it.
of points need to be considered in evaluating how much an amphibian
is worth. Frogs, toads and salamanders are no different from works of
art, antique cars or old stamps: They are worth what someone is willing
to pay if someone else is willing to sell. You might not pay a penny
for a tiger salamander that you could call your own because you dont
want to own one. Nonetheless, the list price at some pet stores is $29.99.
A second reason you might not choose to pay for a pet amphibian is that
you are able to catch your own. For example, my grandson has caught
countless narrow-mouthed toads, barking treefrogs and tiger salamanders
and then released them. Why pay for something you can catch yourself?
had two primary steps. The first was to estimate how many amphibians
were present in the wetland, not an easy task anywhere. More than 20
students, technicians, and faculty were involved in determining the
abundance of the 17 kinds of amphibians that live in the 20-acre wetland.
Over a one-year period, the wetland was circumscribed by a 4,000-foot
fence of aluminum flashing. Bucket traps were buried at intervals on
either side of the fence. The investigators involved in the project
checked every bucket at least once a day to catch and record any amphibians
or other animals that fell into them. Each individual animal was released
on the opposite side of the fence, in the direction it was trying to
go. During the year, a total of 392,605 amphibians were collected. Some
were adult frogs, toads and salamanders traveling into the wetland to
lay eggs; others were recently metamorphosed juveniles leaving the wetland
to begin life on land.
step in the process was to determine how much a specimen of a particular
species was worth on the open market based on price lists distributed
by pet trade companies and biological supply houses. Based only on the
values of the amphibians inhabiting the wetland, the economic value
of the natural habitat was extraordinary. In a single year the monetary
worth of amphibians was $3,605,848 based solely on their commercial
value in the pet trade. The authors also calculated that the amphibian
value of the 20 acres of wetland was more than 100 times higher than
what the same land would have yielded had it been drained and converted
of this study are that native wildlife can be used to place economic
value on wetlands, many of which are no longer protected by environmental
regulations, and that their worth greatly exceeds initial expectations.
The authors do not advocate amphibian harvest as an economic use
for wetlands nor the commercial sale of native amphibians. Nonetheless,
the study underscores the value, diversity and abundance of amphibians
inhabiting these small, isolated and often unprotected wetlands
as virtual amphibian factories.
you have an environmental question or comment, email