Science Inventory

Ecosystem services provided by pacific NW Estuaries: State of knowledge

Citation:

Wyllie-Echeverria, S., Z. Hughes, AND T. H. DEWITT. Ecosystem services provided by pacific NW Estuaries: State of knowledge. Presented at US EPA Ecosystem Services Research Program annual meeting, Las Vegas, NV, October 19 - 21, 2010.

Impact/Purpose:

Coastal regions in the United States are rapidly developing areas, with increasing urbanization and growing populations.

Description:

Coastal regions in the United States are rapidly developing areas, with increasing urbanization and growing populations. Estuarine and nearshore coastal marine waters provide valuable ecosystem services to resident and transient human communities. In the Pacific Northwest (PNW) the proximity of estuaries to rapidly growing human populations and industrial and commercial practices of these population threaten to compromise ecosystem services provided by these highly productive habitats. Understanding the contribution of estuarine ecosystem services to the economy, wellbeing, and quality of life in the PNW is of vital importance if the region is to sustain its natural economy in the face of continued population and commercial growth. In this review we bring to light studies that (1) identify ecosystem services provided by estuaries within the PNW region, (2) link these services to particular habitat types, (3) point out potential threats to these habitats and associated ecosystem services, and (4) identify and prioritize gaps in current scientific knowledge. Our work is focused on an analysis of published research within the region. We found that the production of wildlife and food are the most well studied ecosystem services within estuaries. In this regard, research activity has contributed to a strong understanding of how seagrass and salt marsh communities contribute to coastal productivity, while other potentially productive habitats such as kelp beds, rocky reefs, and sandy shores are far less studied and understood. Major threats to estuaries in the region include storm water runoff, industrial point source pollution, and agricultural runoff. When we convert ecosystem services to economic units through valuation methods, we estimate the estuaries support 93,000 jobs and generate over $3 billion of economic activity in the PNW. The major research gaps for the PNW include the ecosystem services of macroalgae beds, rocky reefs, sandy shores, and the contributions of estuaries to carton sequestration and improvement of water quality. Additionally, there is a research gap for all socio-economic and cultural valuation methods. We also found that studies are concentrated in a small number of estuaries, and data and research are not well distributed throughout the region. This study demonstrates the importance of estuaries for sustaining natural and human communities of the PNW, as well as identifying research needs for better managing and conserving these important resources.

Record Details:

Record Type: DOCUMENT (PRESENTATION/ABSTRACT)
Product Published Date: 10/20/2010
Record Last Revised: 09/21/2016
OMB Category: Other
Record ID: 231272

Organization:

U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

NATIONAL HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS RESEARCH LABORATORY

WESTERN ECOLOGY DIVISION

PACIFIC COASTAL ECOLOGY BRANCH