Understanding why estuarine habitat restoration is viewed as successful or not is critical for evaluating completed projects and garnering support for future projects. Particularly important are the perceptions of key stakeholders who play a role in shaping the future of coastal habitats, such as coastal managers, restoration practitioners, and surrounding communities. Ecological measures alone may not fully describe the success or shortcomings of restoration projects, and public perceptions of success may be based on an entirely different set of metrics. In fact, restoration metrics rarely include human dimensions even though community support for restoration can promote or thwart potential projects and long-term success of completed ones. To more fully account for and understand the impacts of estuarine habitat restoration, this project is developing social metrics for restoration success and linking them, where possible, to ecological monitoring metrics.
Using South Slough NERR and The Wetlands Conservancy restoration projects as case studies, this project includes a three-pronged approach to improve estuarine restoration success. The team will 1) synthesize long-term NERR monitoring data to derive commonly used ecological metrics and to compare these with manager and public perceptions of restoration success, 2) conduct focus groups to examine how the presence and outreach activities of South Slough NERR influence public perception of restoration, and 3) conduct interviews with managers involved in restoration to understand the efficacy of the ecological metrics used to determine restoration progress. The project will produce a summary of values and perceptions associated with estuarine restoration, recommendations for including social and ecological metrics in project design and assessment, and an assessment of the social value of a long-term NERR. This project will help to improve coastal restoration project design and should lead to more inclusive and effective communications surrounding estuarine restoration.