A Heuristic Framework for Evaluating Ecosystem Services in Coastal and Marine Environments: Marine InVEST
Many scientific diagnoses of declining marine species and habitats and of recreational use patterns along U.S. coasts point to upland and freshwater sources of imperilment. A growing number of scientists argue that the best hope for protecting marine resources for multiple uses is to consider larger-scale processes, including activities that take place on land, when designing management strategies. But how inclusion of land- and water-use practices in strategies to sustain coastal marine resources affects management outcomes is poorly understood. The goal of this research is to assess the importance of including these practices in the management of coastal marine resources, using an ecosystem services framework. An ecosystem services framework provides a clear and novel path forward—one that integrates ecological processes with socioeconomic behavior and values.
The specific objectives of the research are to develop a set of linked watershed-marine models with ecosystem service outputs to evaluate management strategies for coastal resources and to apply those models to three case studies: Puget Sound, Galveston Bay, and Chesapeake Bay. In each case, we compare the strength and influence of watershed activities on key ecosystem services and ask how outcomes of marine resource management strategies are affected by including coastal watershed processes. We also explore a limited set of climate change scenarios. We estimate ecosystem services and their values using production function approaches, focusing on how changes in system function driven by land use management and climate change lead to changes in the provisioning of food from selected fisheries. Future work may extend this analysis to aquaculture, recreation, and coastal protection.