, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 179–193 | Cite as

Estimating the Provision of Ecosystem Services by Gulf of Mexico Coastal Wetlands

  • Virginia D. Engle


Gulf of Mexico (GOM) coastal wetlands contribute to human well-being by providing many ecosystem services. The GOM region continues to experience substantial losses of coastal wetlands, but the magnitude of reduction in ecosystem services resulting from the loss of GOM coastal wetlands is unknown. To gain an appreciation of the impact of GOM coastal wetland loss on ecosystem services, recent literature was reviewed to derive quantitative estimates of ecosystem services provided by GOM coastal wetlands. GOM coastal wetlands provide essential habitat for the production of juvenile shrimp, which supports the GOM’s most valuable commercial fishery; protect coastal communities from storm surge; improve water quality by removing nitrogen from surface waters; and are valuable sinks for greenhouse gases due to high rates of carbon sequestration combined with low rates of methane emission. Using 1998 to 2004 as a baseline, the potential loss of ecosystem services associated with loss of coastal wetlands is presented. Additional research is needed to quantify wetland services at multiple geospatial and socioeconomic scales, to determine the effect of wetland loss on ecosystem services, and to demonstrate the impact of future management decisions on the capacity of GOM coastal wetlands to provide services that affect human well-being.


Carbon sequestration Nitrogen removal Shrimp fishery Storm surge protection 



I would like to recognize the contributions of the Wetlands Team of EPA’s Ecosystem Services Research Program (ESRP) to this paper. The ESRP Wetlands Team strives to assess the ecosystem services provided by all wetlands and this paper provides a partial contribution to their larger effort. I also thank Mary Kentula, Steve Jordan, Ken Forshay and Richard Devereux for their insightful early reviews of this paper. The information in this document has been funded wholly (or in part) by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It has been subjected to review by the National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory and approved for publication. Approval does not signify that the contents reflect the views of the Agency, nor does mention of trade names or commercial products constitute endorsement or recommendation for use. This is contribution number 1381 from the Gulf Ecology Division.


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© US Government 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.U.S. Environmental Protection AgencyGulf BreezeUSA

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