Feature: How Much is Great Bay Worth?

By Kirsten Howard, NOAA Coastal Fellow

A new year is as much an opportunity to reflect back as it is a chance to look forward to the future. So let’s do a little exercise. Think back to how you benefited from the Great Bay estuary or another coastal body of water in 2013. Did you take a nature walk to enjoy the beautiful scenery and catch a glimpse of an osprey? Maybe you took a ride on your friend’s sailboat. Order local fish or oysters from a restaurant? Or, on a particularly rainy day, did the salt marshes protect you from floods and filter your stormwater pollution? There are so many ways that Great Bay and other coastal estuaries made our lives better last year. But looking forward, those environmental services that we depend on and enjoy are threatened by some big stressors like nitrogen, climate change, development, and invasive species.
Salt Marsh as seen from Nature Walk at GBNERR

One of the big questions PREP faces in 2014 and beyond is where to focus limited dollars on restoration projects in Great Bay. How can we get the biggest bang for our buck? To figure this out, PREP, The Nature Conservancy, and the New Hampshire Coastal Program have joined forces on the New Hampshire Estuary Spatial Planning Project, a two-year endeavor.

Using existing spatial data for the Great Bay estuary and the Natural Capital Project’s ecosystem services modeling tool InVEST, the project team and interested stakeholders will identify where restoration projects and other activities on the estuary provide the most value to people. The InVEST models will help quantify and put a dollar value on some of the benefits that we all receive from Great Bay today. With help from stakeholders, we’ll design scenarios about the future of Great Bay that incorporate stressors like climate change, possible restoration projects like eelgrass plantings and oyster bed reconstruction, and other activities like oyster aquaculture. By running the ecosystem service models on different scenarios and comparing the results, we can better understand where restoration projects would be most valuable and where activities like oyster aquaculture or mooring fields might be better uses of the space.

Fat Dog Shellfish Co., is any oyster farm in Little Bay

Fat Dog Shellfish Co., is any oyster farm in Little Bay



This new knowledge will help PREP and its partners pick and choose among their many priorities–so we can protect and, if possible, enhance the value you get from your nature walk, your tasty seafood meal, and your paddle into the sunset. Together, we’ve set out to answer some complicated questions and accomplish some big goals: isn’t that what the New Year is for?

You can read more or get involved with the New Hampshire Estuary Spatial Planning Project here.

PREP is part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Estuary Program, a joint program between local, state and federal agencies established under the Clean Water Act with the goal of protecting and enhancing nationally significant estuarine resources. PREP is supported in part by an EPA matching grant and is housed within the School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering at the University of New Hampshire.