Developing linked watershed-marine ecosystem service models to evaluate coastal management

Principal Investigators: Mary Ruckelshaus (NOAA), Phil Levin (NOAA), Mark Plummer (NOAA), Howard Townsend (NOAA)

Collaborators: Gretchen Daily (Stanford), Katie Arkema (Stanford), Jodie Toft (Stanford), CK Kim (Stanford), Tom Minello (NOAA)

A novel tool for validating trophic position estimates in ecosystem-based fisheries models

Evaluating coastal management strategies and their effects on marine ecosystem services in Chesapeake Bay, Puget Sound, and Galveston Bay.

Short Summary

Human activities on land affect transport of materials between watersheds and nearshore and marine systems. In most cases, management strategies aimed at providing ecosystem services such as food from fisheries and aquaculture, recreation, coastal protection from erosion and inundation, or energy generation, do not account for condition of uplands draining into coastal environments. This project will integrate watershed and nearshore/marine ecosystem process models to explore the consequences of accounting for land- and water-use management in managing for marine services.


Project Summary

This project will assess the importance of including the effects of watershed-based activities in managing marine coastal resources. Many scientific diagnoses of declining marine species and habitats, and 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 when designing management strategies. Yet scientific understanding is poor regarding how including land- and water-use practices in strategies to sustain marine resources affects management outcomes. Adding the effects of upland processes to the existing complexity of marine ecosystem models is a daunting prospect. However, an ecosystem service approach provides a clear and novel path forward--one that integrates ecological processes with socioeconomic behavior and values. The proposed research activities will estimate and compare the nature of the influence of watershed practices on a suite of key marine and coastal ecosystem services and ask under what conditions including upland activities increases the likely effectiveness of management strategies.

The specific objectives of the proposed research are first, to develop a generic set of linked watershed-marine models with ecosystem service outputs to evaluate management strategies for coastal resources. The approach will involve building on existing watershed models and linking them with marine models currently in development. The key modeling step will be to quantify the relations between watershed processes and coastal and marine ecosystem structure and function. Second, the models will be applied in three diverse case studies. The PIs will 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 watershed processes. Third, results from the case studies will be used to develop rules of thumb that can be applied generally for identifying conditions under which watershed activities are likely to have a strong influence on delivery of coastal and marine ecosystem services.

We will estimate ecosystem services and their values using production function approaches, focusing on how changes in system function lead to changes in the provisioning of food from fisheries and aquaculture, recreation, and coastal protection. Both watershed and marine management strategies will be evaluated, including land- and water-use practices, landscape change, fishery and aquaculture management, and protection and restoration of nearshore habitats such as eelgrass, mangroves, and wetlands. Working closely with decisionmakers and stakeholders actively engaged within each region, the PIs will ensure that the management strategies and ecosystem services evaluated are relevant to pressing issues. The PIs also will provide key mentorship for postdocs to facilitate training and experience in conducting science that is relevant for management. The work will inform debates about the general importance of land-sea interface interactions on coastal processes and will provide concrete comparisons of factors causing changes in the services provided by marine systems.


For further information, contact or call 301-713-2239.