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Expanding and Deepening the Application of Cultural Ecosystem Services in Estuary Stewardship and Management: Relevance to the National Estuarine Research Reserve System

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About the project

Ecosystem service assessments are a top priority at many reserves in the National Estuarine Research Reserve System. However, within ecosystems services research, there is a critical gap surrounding the equitable representation of cultural ecosystem services (CES) — one of four main categories of ecosystem services (the others being supporting, provisioning, and regulating services). In collaboration with Reserve partners in Heʻeia and Kachemak Bay, this project aims to advance the equitable representation of CES in estuary stewardship and management within and beyond the NERRS. To do so, the project team implemented an interdisciplinary and mixed methods approach, including the development of informational materials for diverse end users.

About this resource

This white paper was developed for the 2020 NERRS Science Collaborative Catalyst project “Cultural Ecosystem Services (CES) in Estuary Stewardship and Management” in an effort to strengthen the conceptual foundation for CES in the NERRS and to support the enabling conditions for research and management application across the national network. The information contained in this paper derives from literature reviews and expert elicitation regarding how researchers and managers in marine, coastal, and Great Lakes settings address human dimensions in resource management. We present a summary of concepts, methods, and other considerations that are relevant for staff, partners, and collaborators across the national network who are interested in learning about and applying CES (and related concepts) in stewardship and management. While we provide guidance and recommendations for identifying and assessing CES, it should be noted that meaningful engagement with CES first requires relationships of trust between NERR staff and their partners and collaborators; if these relationships do not exist, a focus on establishing these relationships should be a priority. Additional materials associated with this project, including case studies of how CES research has been applied in practice and a summary of preliminary methods piloted by the reserves in Hawaiʻi and Alaska, are available on the project page.