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Managing Bay and Estuarine Ecosystems for Multiple Services

Abstract

Managers are moving from a model of managing individual sectors, human activities, or ecosystem services to an ecosystem-based management (EBM) approach which attempts to balance the range of services provided by ecosystems. Applying EBM is often difficult due to inherent tradeoffs in managing for different services. This challenge particularly holds for estuarine systems, which have been heavily altered in most regions and are often subject to intense management interventions. Estuarine managers can often choose among a range of management tactics to enhance a particular service; although some management actions will result in strong tradeoffs, others may enhance multiple services simultaneously. Management of estuarine ecosystems could be improved by distinguishing between optimal management actions for enhancing multiple services and those that have severe tradeoffs. This requires a framework that evaluates tradeoff scenarios and identifies management actions likely to benefit multiple services. We created a management action-services matrix as a first step towards assessing tradeoffs and providing managers with a decision support tool. We found that management actions that restored or enhanced natural vegetation (e.g., salt marsh and mangroves) and some shellfish (particularly oysters and oyster reef habitat) benefited multiple services. In contrast, management actions such as desalination, salt pond creation, sand mining, and large container shipping had large net negative effects on several of the other services considered in the matrix. Our framework provides resource managers a simple way to inform EBM decisions and can also be used as a first step in more sophisticated approaches that model service delivery.

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Acknowledgments

This work was funded by a grant from NOAA’s National Sea Grant Office to S. Gaines and S. Lester. This work greatly benefited from the input of the editor, the guest editor and two anonymous reviewers.

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Correspondence to Lisa A. Needles.

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Needles, L.A., Lester, S.E., Ambrose, R. et al. Managing Bay and Estuarine Ecosystems for Multiple Services. Estuaries and Coasts 38, 35–48 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12237-013-9602-7

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Keywords

  • Ecosystem-based management
  • Ecosystem services
  • Estuary
  • Bay
  • Tradeoff analysis
  • Ecosystem function
  • Marine spatial planning
  • Decision support tool