Study Finds Mainers Would Make Tradeoffs to Preserve Ecosystem Services

The Takeaway: Wells research reserve helped develop a way to estimate ecosystem values and tradeoffs—useful information for making difficult decisions about the environment.

The need to conserve natural buffers for rivers and wetlands along the south coast has become a source of tension between development and conservation interests. To address this issue, the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve worked with partners to develop a model for evaluating ecosystem service values and tradeoffs.

The model shows that south coast residents value natural buffers and are willing to make tradeoffs to protect them. For instance, the respondents value placing greater restrictions on private land development. Only 44 percent of them considered it “very important” that taxes and fees paid by their households do not increase in order to protect natural riparian land. Residents’ values for programs that protect buffers depend on what is protected and how. One application of the model shows that residents of three towns would be willing to pay a total of more than $700,000 per year in additional taxes for restored natural vegetation and ecological conditions, increased numbers of brook trout, and increased protection of riparian buffers in a watershed that includes the Merriland, Branch Brook, and Little River tributaries. The NOAA Research Council’s Ecosystem Research Committee has pointed to this project as an example of a well-integrated social and ecological science assessment. (2016)

Partners: City of Sanford, Maine, George Perkins Marsh Institute at Clark University, Laudholm Trust, Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Maine Drinking Water Program, Maine Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials, Maine Sea Grant, Mount Agamenticus to the Sea Conservation Initiative, NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management, Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership, Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission, Towns of Kennebunk and Wells, Maine, University of New England Department of Environmental Studies, Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve