The New Hampshire Estuary Spatial Planning Project: Coordinating Data to Assess Our Ecosystem Services
The New Hampshire Estuary Spatial Planning Project (NH ESP) is a two-year effort to coordinate the collection, integration, and accessibility of existing spatial data for New Hampshire's Hampton-Seabrook and Great Bay estuaries. Our overall goal is to help improve management decisions. These spatial datasets help visualize environmental, economic, and social information about the estuaries and are often used to create maps and inform critical planning decisions. New Hampshire's estuarine spatial datasets are currently developed by and housed at many different organizations, so NH ESP will help coordinate their management in a central, publicly accessible place. As an initial example, these spatial datasets will be used to assess the economic tradeoffs among different possible future activities in Great Bay, informing how coastal managers consider the many new and existing uses vying for space in the bay.
NH ESP launched in September 2013 and is coordinated by the Coastal Program's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Coastal Management Fellow, Kirsten Howard. The project is supported by the NHDES Coastal Program and NOAA's Coastal Services Center as well as The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership (PREP) and the Natural Capital Project.
A diverse group of organizations around New Hampshire's estuaries is investing substantial resources in oyster, salt marsh, eelgrass, and fisheries protection and restoration. There are also major projects to improve water quality underway with regard to stormwater control and wastewater treatment facility effluent permits, as well as intensified interest in oyster aquaculture. The estuaries face ongoing pressures including, but not limited to, population growth and development, marine transportation, boat moorings, pathogens, invasive species, eutrophication, and climate change. The decision-making mechanisms pertaining to all of these issues tend to be sector-specific and inadequately integrated even though they all affect the limited geography of the two estuaries. Coastal resource managers and stakeholders are interested in planning more holistically to maximize the benefits that people get from conservation and restoration efforts as well as existing and future economic and recreational activities in the estuaries.
Management and conservation organizations active in the coastal region of New Hampshire have a strong track record of working together to address pressing management issues. There are excellent existing spatial datasets for the regionís estuaries that include information on water quality, bathymetry, marine habitats (e.g., eelgrass, oysters, saltmarsh), fish and wildlife, human uses, and potential impacts of climate change. These datasets have been generated by researchers at NHDES, the NH Fish & Game Department, the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, the UNH Jackson Estuarine Laboratory, PREP, the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, TNC and many others.
Phase one: September 2013 to August 2014 - The first phase of NH ESP aims to coordinate these spatial datasets to address well-defined management questions and improve public access to this important information. The primary venue for this data will be a Coastal Viewer on GRANIT, New Hampshire's geographic information system (GIS) clearinghouse. By integrating these datasets in a single public location, New Hampshire’s coastal managers and other interested stakeholders will be able to make better informed decisions.
Phase two: March 2014 to November 2016 - During the second phase, project team members partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Eastern Research Group (ERG) to model habitat risk, design a tradeoff analysis and estimate the economic value of ecosystem services provided by certain activities in the Great Bay Estuary. The goal of this work was to better understand the ways people benefit from Great Bay Estuary ecosystems and inform decisions to sustainably use those benefits while reducing conflict. A Stakeholder Advisory Committee helped design the habitat risk assessment, identify the most important ecosystem services (or benefits people receive from nature) in Great Bay, test economic valuation results and develop communication materials. The effort focused on three key habitats: eelgrass, salt marsh, and oyster beds and designed two extreme future management scenarios that highlight potential habitat loss and possible habitat gain conceivable by the year 2025. Using an economic valuation methodology called benefits transfer, ERG and the project partners found that people are willing to pay simply for the existence of more eelgrass, oyster bed, and salt marsh habitat in the Great Bay Estuary. Additionally, the report outlines potential value that more habitat can provide to people through fishing, oyster harvesting, commercial oyster aquaculture, carbon sequestration and nitrogen removal.
The figure depicts two hypothetical future scenarios for management of the Great Bay Estuary that are intended to illustrate two extreme possibilities for the year 2025: Gain and Sustain Habitats/Benefits and Lose Habitats/Benefits. The figure shows that the “Gain Habitats” scenario would result in more eelgrass, salt marsh, and oyster beds in the year 2025 than the “Lose Habitats” Scenario. The simple existence of the additional habitats present in the Gain Scenario compared to the Lose Scenario is worth $42 million more per year to people around the Great Bay Estuary when compared to the “Lose Habitats” scenario. This dollar value does not take into account the direct economic benefits to the fishing and oyster aquaculture industries, recreation industry, and other direct benefits provided by the Great Bay Estuary. Read the report to learn more about the economic benefits associated with fishing, oyster aquaculture, recreation, and other important uses of the Great Bay.
If you have questions, please contact Kirsten Howard at firstname.lastname@example.org or (603) 559-0020.
Steve Couture, NHDES Coastal Program
Chris Williams, NHDES Coastal Program
Kirsten Howard, NHDES Coastal Program
Rachel Rouillard, PREP
Fay Rubin, UNH GRANIT
Cory Riley, NH Fish & Game Department GBNERR
Pete Wiley, NOAA
Lou Nadeau, ERG
Arleen O’Donnell, ERG
David Patrick, TNC
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