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ORIGINAL RESEARCH article

Front. Ecol. Evol.
Sec. Conservation and Restoration Ecology
Volume 12 - 2024 | doi: 10.3389/fevo.2024.1260447

Identifying priority ecosystem services in tidal wetland restoration Provisionally Accepted

 Chloe Jackson1, 2*  Connie Hernandez2  Susan H. Yee3 Maliha S. Nash3  Heida Diefenderfer4 Amy B. Borde4  Matt Harwell5 Theodore H. Dewitt3
  • 1University of Massachusetts Boston, United States
  • 2Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE), United States
  • 3United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), United States
  • 4Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (DOE), United States
  • 5United States Department of State, United States

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Classification systems can be an important tool for identifying and quantifying the importance of relationships, assessing spatial patterns in a standardized way, and forecasting alternative decision scenarios to characterize the potential benefits (e.g., ecosystem services) from ecosystem restoration that improve human health and well-being. We present a top-down approach that systematically leverages ecosystem services classification systems to identify potential services relevant for ecosystem restoration decisions. We demonstrate this approach using the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Ecosystem Service Classification System Plus (NESCS Plus) to identify those ecosystem services that are relevant to restoration of tidal wetlands. We selected tidal wetland management documents from federal agencies, state agencies, wetland conservation organizations, and land stewards across three regions of the continental United States (northern Gulf of Mexico, Mid-Atlantic, and Pacific Northwest) to examine regional and organizational differences in identified potential benefits of tidal wetland restoration activities and the potential user groups who may benefit. We used an automated document analysis to quantify the frequencies at which different wetland types were mentioned in the management documents along with their associated beneficiary groups and the ecological end products (EEPs) those beneficiaries care about, as defined by NESCS Plus. Results showed that the top combination across all three regions, all four organizations, and all four tidal wetland types was the EEP naturalness paired with the beneficiary people who care (existence). Overall, the Mid-Atlantic region and the land steward organizations mentioned ecosystem services more than the others, and EEPs were mentioned in combination with tidal wetlands as a high-level, more general category than the other more specific tidal wetland types. Certain regional and organizations differences were statistically significant. Those results may be useful in identifying ecosystem services-related goals for tidal wetland restoration. This approach for identifying and comparing ecosystem service priorities is broadly transferrable to other ecosystems or decision-making contexts.

Keywords: ecosystem services1, tidal wetlands2, restoration3, document analysis4, prioritization5

Received: 17 Jul 2023; Accepted: 28 May 2024.

Copyright: © 2024 Jackson, Hernandez, Yee, Nash, Diefenderfer, Borde, Harwell and Dewitt. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Mx. Chloe Jackson, University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston, United States