Strengthening Resiliency in Coastal Watersheds: An Ecosystem Services and Ecological Integrity Decision Support System.

To promote and strengthen the resiliency of coastal watersheds in the face of climate change and development, ecological outcomes as well as economic, social, and environmental justice issues need to be considered. An integrated assessment framework is being developed to help watershed managers, coastal communities, and other stakeholders strengthen coastal resiliency by identifying and prioritizing conservation and restoration efforts within coastal watersheds.
This framework is linked to a desktop and web-based decision support system (DSS) incorporating ecological integrity principles with ecosystem services (ES). The DSS operates within a geospatial platform, allowing for spatially-explicit analysis of individual ecological units and their associated ESs at multiple scales, and provides web-based and mobile applications (tablets and smart phones) developed for a range of users from technical users/stakeholders to the general public. The DSS allows for the evaluation of both ecological integrity and ESs of key functional processes, components and elements of watershed integrity relative to the location within the watershed (e.g. headwater streams, flood plains, riparian condition, coastal wetlands, etc.). This coastal watershed resiliency DSS can be used to make decisions for: 1) prioritizing protection and restoration of upland and riparian habitat for water quality and mitigating non-point source stressors; 2) reducing flooding risks by identifying opportunities to restore flood plains and riparian zones increasing aquatic connectivity for habitat and flood resilience; 3) planning for sea level rise adaptation, marsh migration and marsh hydrology restoration; 4) optimizing green infrastructure to reduce nutrients and non-point source pollutants; 5) identifying best locations for optimizing economic development, and multimodal transportation.