New Metrics and Models Help Quantify Coastal Ecosystem Benefits

The Takeaway: Research reserves are using these aids to understand and communicate how their projects promote cleaner water, improve resilience, expand habitat, and more.

When coastal partners safeguard or restore habitats—by conserving local open space or restoring salt marsh, for instance—nature often rewards them with “ecosystem services” that include cleaner water, enhanced habitat and hazard resilience, expanded outdoor adventures, or a revitalized local economy. Standardized new models and case studies will help the National Estuarine Research Reserve System better understand and communicate how its projects nurture these ecosystem services. Project partners include NOAA’s Science Collaborative, the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University, and the He‘eia, North Carolina, and Rookery Bay Research Reserves.

Research reserves throughout the coastal zone can use the ecosystem services toolkit, from Duke University, to enhance their site-specific models and metrics. Research reserves will find models for illustrating the benefits of mangroves, oyster reefs, salt marsh, seagrass, beaches and dunes, and living shorelines.

Ecosystem service models for mangroves at the Rookery Bay Research Reserve and oyster reefs at the North Carolina Research Reserve were developed at workshops, became case studies, and now have been incorporated into both reserves’ plans. These reserves helped host the workshops.

The He‘eia research reserve contributed to a site-specific model and case study that reflects an important Hawaiian value: Nature provides services to people, and people, in turn, care for and provide services to the landscape. This interaction benefits Hawaiian food systems, native species, public health, resilient shorelines, diverse habitat, and other ecosystem services.

Additional products include a workshop facilitation guide, public outreach materials, and educational activities for middle schoolers. The project team received a grant of $113,308 from NOAA’s Science Collaborative, a program that’s managed in partnership with the University of Michigan. Visit the project page to learn more and access all products. (2020)

Partners: National Estuarine Research Reserve System’s Science Collaborative, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University, and the He`eia, North Carolina, and Rookery Bay Research Reserves