Ecosystem Services and Sea Level Rise

Ecosystem services are the various benefits (goods and services) that humans receive from natural systems such as estuaries, wetlands, and forests. These services are often undervalued and taken for granted. The international Millennium Ecosystem Assessment identified four categories of ecosystem services: provisioning services such as food and water; regulating services such as flood and disease control; cultural services such as spiritual and recreational benefits; and supporting services such as nutrient cycling that maintain the conditions for life on Earth.

Sea level rise is threatening ecosystem services such as flood mitigation, storm surge protection, water quality treatment, and fisheries. For example, coastal marshes and estuaries provide habitat and nurseries for many species, including those important for the ecological food chain and human consumption through fishing and shellfish harvesting. As sea level rises, if the marshes retreat without suitable areas for new marshes, fisheries and wildlife will diminish. This will impact the local economy and quality of life. The potential negative impacts of sea level rise on ecosystem services, and consequently coastal communities, makes it critical to begin planning for future changes now.

The GTM Research Reserve recognizes the importance of ecosystem services to the local people and economies, and the importance of estimating the dollar value of the services. Reserve researchers have determined that the estuaries, marshes, swamps, forests, and marine areas of the Reserve currently provide $246 million per year of ecosystem services. One avenue of new research could be to identify how this value will be affected by sea level rise under different planning scenarios.

The video below shows in more detail the ecosystem services of the GTM Research Reserve.

Fourth Steering Committee Meeting

On December 7th, 2012, the Matanzas Basin Steering Committee met for the fourth time at the GTM Research Reserve Educational Center in Ponte Vedra Beach. The committee reviewed the results from the community workshops held on the previous two days in Marineland and St. Augustine. The committee also provided input on the format for the next set of stakeholder workshops planned for late Spring 2013. These workshops will involve government officials and planners, inland developers, and natural resource-based economic interests.


GTM Research Reserve Environmental Education Center