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NCCOS Project

Outdoor Recreation and Public Perceptions of Prescribed Fires in Coastal Alabama and Mississippi

This project began in May 2022 and is ongoing

NCCOS scientists define ecosystem services value broadly as social, cultural, and economic benefits provided by natural resources and ecosystems to people. Conserving coastal places provides both monetary and non-monetary benefits to local communities. To prioritize investments in protection and restoration, managers need to know how people value natural resources and if management actions affect those values.

The goal of this work is to document the public’s perceived value of the ecosystem services provided by coastal habitats that are restored using nature-based solutions. In particular, this study aims to understand outdoor recreational use and perceptions of prescribed fires in coastal habitats of coastal Alabama and Mississippi.

A boardwalk leads through trees with vegetation covering the ground below.

A boardwalk trail weaves throughout the Weeks Bay Reserve pitcher plant bog.

Why We Care
Ecosystem service valuation aims to measure the benefits to people from a particular ecosystem service, such as reducing risks (e.g., flood risk, wildfire risk) or providing recreational opportunities. This study will help managers plan restoration and conservation projects that benefit both people and nature, as well as raise community awareness and support.

What We Are Doing
We will quantify the value of the ecosystem service benefits to people provided by fire-restored coastal habitats in and around the Weeks Bay and Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserves. We will explore two ecosystem services connected to these restored habitats: recreation, and wildfire risk reduction. This will be accomplished using both primary (e.g., survey of human populations, visitor counts) and secondary (e.g., human mobility data, socioeconomic data, risk maps) data types. Methodological approaches may include the following: 1) cost-based valuation methods (e.g., travel cost, avoided cost, hedonic pricing) and 2) spatial and temporal trends analysis of visitor use.

Benefits of Our Work
This body of work will provide information to decision-makers regarding the value, benefit, and perceived efficacy of federal investments in habitat restoration and climate adaptation projects that employ nature-based infrastructure.

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NCCOS delivers ecosystem science solutions for stewardship of the nation’s ocean and coastal resources to sustain thriving coastal communities and economies.

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