Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Restoring Coastal Ecosystems With Oyster Reefs Creates Jobs and Economic Benefits

We saw this article on the Climate Progress Blog and printed excerpts . The original REport can be found here. 

Restoring coastal ecosystems can provide significant economic benefits and even create “pathways out of poverty” for low-income Americans, according to a new report by the Center for American Progress and Oxfam America.  They looked at three coastal restoration projects on different coasts in the U.S. and found that, for every $1 invested in coastal restoration projects, $15 in net economic benefits was created. These benefits include improved fish stocks, due to the fact that 75 percent of the U.S.’s most important commercial fish species rely on coastal environments at some point in their life cycle, with many young fish and crustaceans using habitats such as oyster reefs as nurseries.

A bird stands on an oyster shell strip atop an existing reef in the Gulf of Mexico off the Texas coast on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013.

Coastal restoration also provides increased protection from storm surges, improved coastal recreation opportunities, health benefits from increased levels of filter feeders such as oysters, and last of all, jobs: for every $1 million invested in coastal restoration, the report notes, 17 jobs were created on average. 
“We learned in a nutshell that there’s a win-win, if not a win-win-win, opportunity that presents itself when you invest in conservation,” Mark Schaefer, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Conservation and Management at NOAA, said at the report’s release event Wednesday. “The economic benefits are remarkable … there’s a direct connection between what we’re doing to enhance the environment and what we’re doing to enhance economic opportunity.
In one of the restoration projects the report studied, scientists and other officials worked to improve two coastal habitats of Virginia’s Seaside Bays: oyster reefs andsubmerged aquatic vegetation, an ecosystem composed of sea grasses that grow in shallow water. Both of these ecosystems have faced sharp declines in Virginia and worldwide, but restoration efforts led to the creation of new oyster reefs at 14 sites along the coast — 22.1 acres of functional oyster reefs in all — and 133 acres that were seeded with eelgrass, an area that scientists think will expand to 1,703 acres of seagrass bed in the next 24 years. 
Restoring these ecosystems have safety benefits, as well. Coastal wetlands help buffer coastal communities from strong storm surges by soaking up seawater. According to the report, up to 60 percent of the damage done to Gulf Coast communities from hurricanes happens because there aren’t healthy barrier ecosystems in place.

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