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Estimating the Change in Ecosystem Service Values from Coastal Restoration


August 20, 2014
Coastal ecosystems are highly productive, yet vulnerable, natural resources. Healthy tidal wetlands, submerged aquatic vegetation, oyster reefs, and other habitats provide vital goods and services, from fisheries production to recreation opportunities and wildlife habitat. These goods and services support the livelihoods, experiences, and resilience of coastal communities.
During the past century, however, human development pressures, natural disasters, and other factors have contributed to dramatic declines in the health and extent of the United States’ wetlands, marshes, and submerged habitats.
Despite research that shows the value of healthy ecosystems, and the clear need for restoration given ongoing and nation-wide coastal degradation, coastal restoration funding remains slim. This reflects an apparent gap between scientific knowledge of the value of coastal ecosystems and consequent policy decisions to prioritize investments in coastal restoration. Policies to address this gap may benefit from studies expressing the economic value of specific restoration projects and the tangible ecosystem services they generate.
The purpose of this study – produced for the Center for American Progress and Oxfam America – is to help bridge the gap by assessing the potential economic value of long-lasting environmental benefits provided by recent coastal restoration projects: tidal marsh, eelgrass, and oyster reefs. The analysis demonstrates the value of restoration relative to the initial restoration investments, based on three projects designed to provide short-term economic stimulus under the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act: San Francisco Bay tidal marsh restoration, Virginia Seaside Bays oyster and eelgrass restoration, and Mobile Bay oyster reef breakwater installations.

Read the appendices.

North America