The Benefits of Healthy Coastal Habitats

Healthy coastal areas are one of the most important sources of economic activity, providing food, energy production, commerce, recreation, as well as community resiliency from storm surges. Measuring the economic benefits of coastal habitat restoration, or the costs when it is destroyed, is difficult. New methods are needed that can statistically show the effects of restoration on the American economy. 

A Senior Fellow from the Ocean Foundation's Coastal Ocean Value Center is leading research efforts to identify and monitor socio-economic indicators of coastal habitat restoration.  This research will increase awareness of the potential effect of restored habitats on the U.S. economy.   

pulling oyster net.
Freshly harvested oysters from Yaquina Bay, Ore.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

As part of these research efforts, data will be collected at restoration sites along the Atlantic, Gulf, or Pacific coasts.  Restore America’s Estuaries and NOAA’s Office of Habitat Conservation will assist in the research by examining changes in human activities. We will measure such things as the number of recreational visits to a restored coastal area and the changes in coastal property values.

A staggering 55 percent of the U.S. population currently lives along the coast. Healthy coastal ecosystems not only provide important ecological services, such as habitat for plants and animals, but they also protect human life and property by absorbing wave energy and storm surge during severe weather events. Any damage to coastal ecosystems can cause a ripple effect of great economic loss for communities. Certain plants and animals may be lost forever, affecting costal businesses. And protection from environmental impacts such as hurricanes and floods may be reduced or eliminated.

We anticipate this research will help us better understand the ways habitat restoration affects our economy and influences how we use our coastal areas. A special symposium to discuss the findings of these research projects is planned for summer 2009. In the future, the Office of Habitat Conservation and the regional habitat programs plan to evaluate similar services provided by habitats protected from human degradation. NOAA logo.