Ecosystem Services of the ACF Watershed

The water that flows from the Apalachicola River into Apalachicola Bay has its genesis in northern Georgia. Two river systems from Georgia, the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers flow into the Apalachicola near the Florida town of Chattahoochee to form the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Watershed (ACF). There are many economical benefits associated within the ACF ecosystem for the Florida Panhandle.

The benefits associated with ACF ecosystem are important for the ACF ecology and even the people that live in the ACF region in terms of their dependence on ecosystem services like food, clean water and electricity. First of all, ACF's ecosystem is a diverse ecosystem that maintains many different types of animal and plant species. ACF also provides many natural ecosystem services. These ecosystem services are the raw goods and services produced by the surrounding ecosystem that can be used by people. ACF and all ecosystem services are grouped into four broad categories:

Provisioning Ecosystem Services: The production of food and water derived from the ecosystem.

Regulating Ecosystem Services: The control of climate and disease by the ecosystem.

Supporting Ecosystem Services: These are nutrient cycles and crop pollination produced by the ecosystem.

Cultural Ecosystem Services: These are the spiritual and recreational benefits produced by the ecosystem.

Therefore, it is important that people do not overuse or pollute the ACF ecosystem. Below is a brief list of ecosystem services produced by the ACF ecosystem:

  1. Irrigation for Agriculture
  2. Energy
  3. Commercial Fishing / Recreation
  4. Forestry
  5. Drinking Water
  6. Conservation Area / State Parks
  7. Preserve Biodiversity

The Apalachicola provides over 30 percent of the freshwater that goes into the eastern Gulf of Mexico, which is an important factor in making the Apalachicola Bay itself a richly productive estuary. This fact hits home for Florida fisherman and other businesses that make their living from the Apalachicola Bay area. As a matter of fact, ninety percent of oysters consumed in Florida and ten percent of all oysters consumed in America come from Apalachicola Bay, according to a report by the City of Apalachicola Florida. Obviously, a change in the Bay area's ecosystem, like a major drought could possibly destroy the amount of oysters harvested in Apalachicola Bay. From a supply and demand perspective, decreasing the amount of oysters harvested would decrease the price of oysters for consumers nationwide resulting in a market shortage for oysters. In other words, oyster consumers will pay more for oysters, until suppliers can produce more oysters, or at least until sufficient substitutes are provided to oyster consumers.

As the Law of Demand states, the higher the price of oysters the less consumers will spend for oysters. Therefore, it is important that the environmental factors that have been working for thousands of years to keep the ecosystem service of producing oysters in Apalachicola Bay are kept in place.

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