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The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

Sustaining Coastal Landscapes and Community Benefits

Posted by | August 18, 2010

Project Goals

  • Understand and measure the value of services and benefits provided by waterfront buffer lands and wetlands
  • Provide place-based economic information to support decisions that reflect the true consequences of land use, restoration, and conservation practices in southern Maine

Project Summary

Along the coast of southern Maine, the need to conserve natural buffers to protect rivers and wetlands has become a focal point for tensions between development and conservation interests. In this rapidly developing landscape, decision-makers often feel they must choose development over conservation or restoration to support local economies. While there is scientific evidence that underscores the value of protecting natural buffers around sensitive water bodies, local decision-makers need additional, place-based, economic information about the ecosystem services that these lands provide and the range of tradeoffs that are implied in related land use decisions. A team led by the Wells Reserve addressed this need by working with local, state, and federal stakeholders to better understand, measure, and communicate how southern Mainers value natural buffers and the tradeoffs they are willing to make to protect these critical resources for the future.

Project Impacts

This project provided crucial information about watershed ecological conditions and ecosystem service benefits and tradeoffs related to land use decisions and defensible estimates of social benefits and values associated with riparian and wetland areas in southern Maine. Local decision-makers can use this information to implement sustainable management practices for riparian and wetland areas and demonstrate different ways in which the conservation and restoration of coastal systems contribute to ecosystem services valued by the public. The project also built reserve system capacity to integrate ecological, social, and economic data to guide land use and policy by developing and sharing templates to apply ecological and economic ecosystem service valuation methods in other places.

This project demonstrated the value of and connection to state, regional, and national approaches to ecosystem service valuation and interdisciplinary research in the context of a National Estuarine Research Reserve. For example, NOAA’s Research Council Ecosystem Research Committee is using this project as an example of how coastal managers should conduct integrated social and ecological science. The project’s lead economist participated in several federal ecosystem management processes and worked to enhance visibility of this project as a case study for ecosystem research. Project team members partnered with the Mission-Aransas Reserve and researchers from Texas A&M University to develop and deliver Bridging the Gulfs a training focusing on stakeholder engagement best practices to transfer the findings and tools from this project to other reserves and coastal management partners. The team also worked with education coordinators from the Wells, Narragansett, and Waquoit Bay reserves to develop a Teachers on the Estuary (TOTE) workshop based on ecosystem services.


Project Period

October 2010 to July 2015

Research Team Partners

For More Information

Contact Chris Feurt at or (207) 646-1555 ext.157

Funding Source

NERRS Science Collaborative — In its first request for proposals, the collaborative received 35 letters of intent representing 26 reserves. Twenty-nine applicants submitted full proposals. Seven were funded.

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