2019 CSCE Annual Conference - Laval (Greater Montreal) Conference
Dr. Kerry McPhedran, University of Saskatchewan
The Meewasin Northeast Swale (Swale) is a 26-kilometre long, 2,800-hectare span of ancient prairie, riparian, forest, and wetland located partly in northeastern Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Ancient grasslands and wetlands are endangered ecosystems and home to a wealth of biodiversity, yet this geologically & ecologically unique ecosystem is threatened by urban development including encroaching subdivisions and bisecting roadways, among others. Despite these threats to the Swale’s health, no substantial environmental impact monitoring has been done for the Swale. Additionally, the full value of the Swale – in terms of economic, sociocultural, and environmental value – is not fully accounted for. The City of Saskatoon neither understands the impacts the City is having on the Swale, nor appreciates the value the Swale provides to the community.
To rectify this knowledge gap, a natural capital asset valuation (NCAV) has been conducted for the Swale. NCAV is the process of determining the worth of an ecosystem and its services. The Swale's natural capital – its geography, soil, air, water, and living organisms – contributes ecosystem services: natural processes which benefit people. The NCAV for the Swale involves a combination of two non-market valuation techniques: replacement cost analysis and contingent valuation. Replacement cost analysis uses the cost of replacing an ecosystem service with a human-made equivalent as an analogue for ecosystem value. For the Swale, replacement cost analysis was applied to ecosystem services including flood & drought mitigation, water treatment, and carbon sequestration. Contingent valuation is a stated preference method of valuation in which the public is asked how much money they would be willing to pay to preserve an environmental feature such as sense of place, biodiversity, or aesthetics. A survey was developed and distributed throughout Saskatoon in partnership with the City of Saskatoon and Meewasin to determine the willingness-to-pay for environmental features.
The valuation of the Swale allows its stakeholders and managers to make enlightened management decisions. The NCAV methodology that has been developed is a framework, ready to be applied to other natural resources in Saskatoon and is meant to be adaptable to other municipalities in Canada. NCAV enhances the appreciation of capital – natural, human, and manufactured – allowing for responsible environmental decision making that balances economic, sociocultural, and environmental sustainability.