The Economic Case for Restoring Coastal Ecosystems

The Center for American Progress (CAP) and Oxfam America collaborated with a research team to identify and analyze 3 coastal restoration sites of the 50 that NOAA funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. A detailed economic analysis of three sites was produced that exemplify the potential economic benefits of coastal restoration. The sites analyzed for the report are an oyster reef and sea grass restoration project in the Seaside Bays of Virginia, an oyster reef project in Mobile Bay, Alabama, and salt marsh restoration in San Francisco Bay, California.

Overall, the CAP and Oxfam analysis found that the combined economic output from project spending and the long-term ecosystem service benefits in these three locations outweigh the cost of investment by more than 15 to 1.

Healthy, restored ocean and coastal wetlands ecosystems provide enhanced economic value. This report defines that economic metric exploring the benefits from restored coastal ecosystems such as wetlands, seagrass beds, and oyster reefs.

The study addressed:
• The extent that restoration produced changes in ecosystem conditions
• Timing, magnitude, and duration as well as the association of ecosystem goods and services with the observed ecosystem changes;
• The extent that measured changes in ecosystem goods and services may provide benefits to society.

The analysis of the three federally funded projects demonstrates that investing in well-designed coastal restoration can be highly cost effective, returning significantly more than the cost of the restoration project. Net economic benefits come from the restored coast’s capacity to buffer storm surges; safeguard coastal homes and businesses; sequester carbon and other pollutants; create nursery habitat for commercially and recreationally important fish species; and restore open space and wildlife that support recreation, tourism, and the culture of coastal communities. The benefits are not simply environmental, they are economic and social as well.


Publication Date: April 2014

Authors or Affiliated Users:

  • Michael Conathan
  • Jeffrey Buchanan
  • Shiva Polefka

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Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Assessment


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