The coast of Washington, including the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, is home to diverse marine and intertidal communities valued for their aesthetic and recreational benefits. We are working to improve understanding of how the value of these ecosystem benefits may change if natural resources degrade due to man-made and environmental stressors, or improve with new management approaches, helping resource managers better sustain and improve the region’s marine resources.
Why We Care
The Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary (OCNMS) includes 2,408 square nautical miles of marine waters off the Olympic Peninsula coastline. The sanctuary extends 25 to 50 nautical miles seaward, covering much of the continental shelf and several major submarine canyons. The sanctuary protects a productive upwelling zone that is home to marine mammals and seabirds. Along its shores are thriving kelp and intertidal communities, teeming with fish and other sea life. On the seafloor, scattered communities of deep sea coral and sponges form habitats for fish and other marine wildlife.
In addition to important ecological resources, the sanctuary has a rich cultural and historical legacy. Over two hundred shipwrecks are documented here. Also, the vibrant contemporary communities of the Makah Tribe, Quileute Tribe, Hoh Tribe, and Quinault Nation have forged inseparable ties to the ocean environment, maintaining traditions of the past while they navigate the challenges of the present.
Changes in coastal development and human use of natural resources, occurrence of natural and technological stressors, and implementation of new management practices at OCNMS can alter the condition of ecological systems and shift the perception of the sanctuary’s value to Olympic Coast and Washington residents. Climate change is one driver of change that may impact the quality and availability of socially valued natural resources. For example, changing ecosystems may lead to declines in wildlife populations, such as fish, seabird, and marine mammal populations found at OCNMS that many people value for recreational sightseeing. From a policy and management standpoint, it would be helpful to understand how much value people would place on a particular ecosystem service or resource if it stays the same, improves, degrades, or goes away. This knowledge will help natural resources managers optimally invest limited financial and personnel resources in management activities at OCNMS.
What We Are Doing
We are assessing changes in non-market values held by Washington residents for natural resources found in the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. We will develop economic models to estimate the probable impact of changes in resource attributes to the values placed on ecosystem services, particularly those identified by the public as especially important. We will accomplish this by:
- Gathering information on changes in non-market values for natural resources in OCNMS and Washington, generally.
- Determining how possible changes in natural resource attributes influence non-market values held for important ecosystem services along Washington’s outer coast.
- Developing maps showing the spatial distribution of biological and ecological resources that are identified as valuable by residents of Washington.
Economic models developed for this project can be used to conduct valuation studies for OCNMS based on a variety of changes to natural resource attributes. Once we can confidently forecast changes to valued natural resources on the outer coast, we can use these models to estimate how public value for these resources will also fluctuate.
The project team includes partners from NCCOS, the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, and the state of Washington.