Alternate Title

Economic Impact of Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem Goods and Services and Integration Into Restoration Decision-Making


Sustainability of natural resources requires balancing exploitation and conservation, enabled by management based on the best available scientific and economic information. Valuation of ecosystem goods and services is an important tool for prioritizing restoration efforts, recognizing the economic importance of conserving natural capital, and raising public awareness about the contribution of healthy ecosystems to social welfare, now and for future generations. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill (DHOS) in 2010 was a Gulf of Mexico ecological and economic disaster adding to decades-long degradation of the region’s coastal and marine environment. In 2010, revenues from provisioning ecosystem goods and services generated by the five U.S. states bordering the Gulf of Mexico contributed over $2 trillion per year to the nation’s gross domestic product, including $660 billion from the coastal county revenues and $110 billion from ocean revenues. Mexico and Cuba contribute at least another $40 billion per year from their Gulf coastal and ocean economies. Total economic value of Gulf ecosystem goods and services also requires valuation of nonmarket regulating, cultural, and supporting services, which are far more difficult to assess, but add billions more dollars per year. In light of this total economic value and trends in ecosystem stressors, new investment is necessary to ensure completeness, accuracy, and availability of Gulf economic impact data. Civil and criminal settlements related to the DHOS provide unprecedented opportunities for improving integration of ecosystem goods and services into decisions that affect Gulf restoration and sustainability. This paper highlights the economic contributions of Gulf ecosystem goods and services to the nation’s welfare, and recommends actions and investments required to ensure that they are valued, and integrated into decision-making.