The value of fresh water as an economic input: evidence from Florida oyster fisheries

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Agriculture


Natural resources contribute to a number of processes that humans depend on for economic benefits. A notable example is fisheries. Fishery productivity is largely dictated by environmental factors. When an ecosystem is altered, the effect on its fisheries can be catastrophic. As development intensifies throughout the world, an increasing number of fisheries are affected by environmental change driven by human behavior. A relevant example is Florida's oyster industry in the Gulf of Mexico, including the famous Apalachicola Bay fishery. As development and population have increased in the surrounding region, the river system that drains into the Florida Gulf has seen diminished water supply. Oysters rely on a particular mix of fresh and saltwater, so changes in the fresh water level affects the ecosystem and the fishing industry. In this thesis, I analyze the effect and value of freshwater input in the oyster fisheries of the Florida Gulf. I find that the effect of freshwater inflow on oyster productivity varies by season, with quarter three flow being of primary importance. Depending on the county and valuation method, I find a standard deviation change in freshwater inflow to be worth between $318,650.98 and $834,004.81 over two years in the context of oyster fisheries. While this specific situation is of particular interest, this work also contributes to the broader literature regarding the role and value of natural resources as economic inputs.




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