In an era of rising sea levels, costal land managers including land trust representatives, municipal planners, and others contributing to decisions about whether to develop or protect coastal parcels do not have viable means of evaluating future values on wetlands that will be created when sea levels rise. This project develops and tests a software modeling approach to help address this issue, in combination with a novel, expert-opinion driven benefit-cost framework. The beta test used three parcels in Scarborough, Maine: Hampton Circle, Maine Audubon, and Pine Point. It used a group of experts to 1) allocate initial values to these parcels for a range of ecosystem services, using Wetland Benefit Units, and 2) create depth-benefit curves that estimate how those values would change with increasing water depth at each site. Experts estimated that the Hampton Circle site had the highest initial values across all services. But once sea level rise and topographic diversity was accounted for via use of the software (Marsh Adaptation Strategy Tool), what initially appeared to be the most valuable site became the least valuable. The analysis demonstrates the importance of being able to examine interactions among a diversity of ecosystem service values, local topography, and possible sea level rise, and demonstrates the utility of a new software tool and benefit-cost framework to support coastal land management decisions before and during upland conversion to wetland.
Merrill, Samuel B.
"Using Future Benefits to Set Conservation Priorities for Wetlands,"
Journal of Ocean and Coastal Economics:
1, Article 3.
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