Quantifying the Value of Benefits derived from Agricultural Lands

Hundreds of species of wildlife live on private, agricultural land. As a result, farmers and ranchers are environmental stewards, as maintaining their land to support agriculture also plays a key role in providing wildlife ecosystems in addition to feeding Florida and the world.  

Many producers implement best management practices on their farms, which helps keep our state’s water and air clean. They do this even though they’re not compensated for their additional efforts that benefit Florida. Why? Because they love the land, and it’s the right thing to do.  

Agricultural producers have a vested interest in a healthy environment. Without it, their farms are less successful, and communities eat less food. You might say farmers are the original environmentalists. 

Some farmers even create and/or preserve natural habitats on their land, supporting wildlife and pollinators and contributing to the overall ecological balance. Others work closely with the Florida Wildlife Corridor to allow natural movement of wildlife through their fields and pastures.  

That’s why it’s critical to develop a system to quantify and put a value on those benefits derived from Florida’s agricultural lands – a concept known as “ecosystem services.”  

There are plenty of examples of what nature can provide. 

  • A mature tree produces 260 pounds of oxygen and can absorb more than 48 pounds of carbon dioxide each year. Two mature trees provide enough oxygen for a family of four. 
  • Soil on farmlands absorbs water from rain or irrigation. This, in turn, provides recharge of ground water. 
  • When driving down the highways, you can enjoy the beauty of the fields and pastures.  

Not only do agricultural lands and their owners provide environmental benefits, UF/IFAS scientists use various methods to calculate the economic value of natural resources.to better understand the benefits that well-managed farms, ranches and marine resources contribute to the state. This could include conserving wildlife, saving fresh water, preserving animals that offer pest control, protecting shorelines and managing fisheries.  

Now, UF/IFAS is using artificial intelligence to more accurately calculate environmental benefits. Scientists will use wide-ranging datasets to quantify and assign a value to many environmental benefits, including: 

  • Reduced erosion, soil rehabilitation, nutrient cycling and carbon sequestration. 
  • Maintain systems for delivery of water quantity and quality. 
  • Preserve habitats that support Florida wildlife and imperiled plant species. 
  • Maintain the productivity of agricultural livestock systems. 
  • Living shorelines to protect areas in paths of storms. 

Farmers, ranchers and fish managers – among others who make their living in agriculture – put their livelihoods on the line every day to put food on our tables. But they’re also deeply concerned about how they can help preserve our natural resources, whether those are plants, wildlife or shorelines. That’s why it’s critical to quantify the value of their environmental conservation efforts. 

Click any of this link for more information about values of ecosystem services or on this link for more detailed explanations of ecosystem services. 



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Posted: December 7, 2023

Category: UF/IFAS
Tags: Agricultural Lands, Carbon Sequestration, Cattle, Easements, Ecosystem Services, Environment, Farmers, Florida Wildlife Corridor, Grazing Lands, Ranches, Water, Wildlife

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