Safe Harbor believes future decisions about our resources  will be influenced by Financial and Social, as well as Ecological values. We need to understand and these values and develop a vocabulary to express them. The biggest change in mindset will be learning how to express ecological values in financial terms. This constitutes a sea change in alternatives analysis.

Coastal resources are front and center in our future.  We need to create a better evaluation process of green infrastructure and resiliency to assess cost benefit values of development vs protection. This will be require a significant departure from socio-economic based decisions of  the past century. Fortunately we have lots of successful financial evaluation models. Unfortunately we have very few models to actually quantify ecosystem values (services). Balancing Ecological, Social and Financial values will create more sustainable solutions. 

 

The lateral image below, created by Jamie Fitzgerald (Safe Harbor; Tulane University) suggests some considerations for evaluating a salt marsh. Featured image above by Emily Beebe. Image below by Odessa Bricault, Safe Harbor, Incremental Salt Marsh Restoration project. Thank you, Gordon Peabody

Incorporating ecosystem services into management decisions will require an integrated approach to modeling. Scientists determining baseline and projected values need to be able to provide relevant information to geopolitical decision makers attempting to make assessments. Coastal services indicated in the lateral image above will only increase in value over time, as they are reduced by development and the effects of climate change. Nearly a third of the USA population live in or near coastal watersheds.

 

Climate Change projections need to model potential impacts to "faster-short term variables" such as food sources and employment, while identifying "slow variables" such as critical cycling of nutrients necessary to protect intergenerational sustainability of ecosystem services. 

 

Potential losses of ecosystem services that concern us today:

1. Drinking water. Only 0.1% of the Earth's water is readily available and we are currently using 50% of that. Our cultural indifference to the Hydrological Cycle has us drinking everything from cleaning solvents to pesticides to pharmaceuticals. Many are now being identified as endocrine mimicking compounds.

2. Thermal feedback cycles may be accelerating. Ice loss creates more ice loss. Energy once reflected is now absorbed and reflected back into the atmosphere. 6 thousand years ago the northern expansion of the tree line may have contributed to 50% of the warmth allowing civilization to flourish. Now unregulated warming may impact both ice and trees.