Ecosystem services

A common assumption in conservation is that ecosystem services respond linearly to changes in habitat size. This assumption leads frequently to an “all or none” choice of either preserving habitats or converting them to human use. However, my collaborative research on coastal protection services (i.e., wave attenuation) reveals that these relationships are rarely linear, and that optimal land use occurs through the integration of development and conservation consistent with ecosystem-based management goals (Barbier, Koch, Silliman et al. 2008, Science; 2009 Frontiers). Thus, reconciling competing demands on coastal habitats should not always result in stark preservation-versus-conversion choices. Over the next 5 years, I will experimentally test for non-linearities in ecosystem generation of fishery and shoreline protection services in seagrass, mangrove, oyster and salt marsh communities.